Strathcona County Firefighters and Paramedics are sounding the alarm over the strain being put on their staff.
There has been a considerable increase in the number of times resources are pulled out of Strathcona County and into different jurisdictions in the last six months. Andrew Spence, the president of Strathcona Professional Firefighters and Paramedics, described the system as being "held together by tape," with not enough resources, leading staff to burn out.
He explained paramedics are often running around for hours at a time, with possibly no breaks. At times, they're working in rural areas without bathrooms or places to get out and stretch.
"So, they're working out of ambulances all across the province. When you get sent to a call, it's 30 minutes away and you drive there for 30 minutes knowing that you should have been there within five or 10 minutes. That mental stress starts to wear on you," he said.
"And then to arrive there and have to speak on behalf of Alberta Health to a family member that was doing CPR on their family member for 30 minutes; those are taxing, taxing environments for paramedics to have to endure daily."
In 2009, ambulance delivery switched from the municipalities responsibility to Alberta Health Services. Strathcona County Emergency Services negotiated with the province to provide contract services and is one of seven regions in Alberta to have an integrated paramedic and firefighter system.
The current approach means ambulances can respond to calls in different jurisdictions that need one. Spence said there are not enough resources right now, and staff are being pulled in many different directions.
He stated that roughly half of the time, Strathcona County ambulances aren't actually operating in the county.
"When you wear the uniform with Strathcona on the shoulders, you expect to be able to service your own community where you raise your family," he continued. "You know the system is failing, and when you raise your kids in this community and you know all the resources are pulled into the city, it's not a good feeling to have to have on your mind."
Spence would like to see Strathcona County regain more control of its services, adding both chief commissioner Darrell Reid and mayor Rod Frank have been championing the issue through council. In the 2022 budget, Strathcona County allocated additional funds toward hiring 12 additional firefighters.
According to Spence, staffing levels haven't increased in about ten years. The extra staff will help address issues with overtime and give members time to decompress from a challenging profession.
"I'm proud to be a paramedic, have been for 25 years, and I think all of our members are proud to be paramedics. They're proud to be able to arrive at the emergency and make it better. I think right now, there's a sense that there's just not enough resources."