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AHS initiatives improve EMS response times in Red Deer

‘We’ll definitely keep the foot on the gas when it comes to advocating,’ says IAFF local president
Alberta Health Services is reporting improvements to response times for ambulances in communities like Red Deer. (Advocate file photo)

EMS response times have improved 44 per cent since November in urban areas like Red Deer according to an Alberta Health Services report.

According to the data, 90 per cent of the time in metro and urban areas, the response time for urgent calls dropped to 12 minutes in April from 21.8 minutes in November.

Curtis Schaefer, assistant deputy chief with Red Deer EMS, said although he couldn’t provide local data on response times, there has been an improvement for ambulances serving the city.

“They’re getting turned around quickly out of the hospital and able to respond back into our community,” Schaefer said.

He said in late March crews saw an impact right away when AHS launched a return to service initiative to hand over patient care to emergency department staff within a 45-minute target, despite the ups and downs that come along with a new initiative.

“We are seeing an improvement overall of our crews having a reduction in wait times at the hospital which puts them in our community more frequently and able to respond quicker to calls.”


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The first contracted ambulance for the inter-facility transfer program in AHS Central Zone was put into service on April 18 to transfer stable, low-acuity patients between facilities.

Schaefer said use of that transfer ambulance is slowly increasing and having an impact.

The goal is to have 10 ambulances for the program by the middle of July.

“These initiatives have made a positive change. It doesn’t surprise me to see that we’re able to respond faster to emergencies.”

He said two more peak-time ambulances have also been added to the Red Deer EMS system as of Monday.

The first peak ambulance came on board in December, with the others coming online as scheduled.


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Stephen Belich, president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 1190 Red Deer, said having a registered nurse in the emergency department take over patient care from crews has made a big difference. But wait times for crews do creep back up when the dedicated nurse isn’t there overnight, so the local will be advocating to make a nurse available 24 hours a day.

“We’ll definitely keep the foot on the gas when it comes to advocating for the citizens of Red Deer when it comes to emergency response and the hospital,” Belich said.

He said overall, crews are noticing some big improvements with the little changes made so far. Ambulances from communities outside Red Deer are also seeing a benefit. They aren’t having to respond to calls in Red Deer as often now that Red Deer ambulances are spending less time at the hospital.

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Susan Zielinski

About the Author: Susan Zielinski

Susan has been with the Red Deer Advocate since 2001. Her reporting has focused on education, social and health issues.
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