AHS looking to smooth out ambulance bottlenecks

Alberta Health Services is looking at ways to reduce the number of ambulances tied up outside hospital emergency departments or in patient transfers.

Alberta Health Services is looking at ways to reduce the number of ambulances tied up outside hospital emergency departments or in patient transfers.

One initiative is aimed at smoothing out bottlenecks in emergency departments, where sometimes two or three ambulance crews are out of service waiting for patients to be admitted.

It is proposed that one ambulance crew take charge of all the patients, allowing the other ambulances to leave.

“That’s just going to help increase efficiencies,” said Keri Huot, an Alberta Health Services Emergency Medical Services (EMS) operations manager for the Central Zone.

Edmonton and Calgary have already taken this step and in this area Alberta Health Services is working with various ambulance providers to come up with a system that works for all.

Another initiative being pursued is to cut back on the use of ambulances for routine patient transfers between facilities. Rather than use an ambulance to take someone from one hospital to another for tests, a van will be used if the patient does not require medical help.

Alberta Health Services handles 35,000 emergency calls in the Central Zone each year, plus an additional 15,000 patient transfer calls.

Alberta Health Services is also reviewing how best to provide first response if an ambulance is not immediately available. Care provided would depend on the level of training of the first responder and would be under the medical direction of EMS.

“It’s an evolving program. It’s just in its infancy, but it’s certainly one we would really like to see get some momentum.”

Municipalities have already been surveyed to gauge their interest in providing some form of first medical response, either through fire departments or other emergency services.

“It’s really to help backfill,” she said. “There’s such a heavy workload on EMS right now we just can’t do it all.”

Huot was among the speakers at a workshop in Lacombe hosted by the Village of Clive and the Alberta Emergency Management Agency for the Central Region that drew about 75 people.

Bruce Mackenzie, a field officer with the agency, said the event is catered to staff from all levels of government, elected officials, first responders, directors of emergency management, volunteer organizations and others who have a role in an emergency.

“We’re always striving to make municipalities safer, and as a provincial agency we’re here to support them in doing that,” said Mackenzie.

“The municipality has the lead in emergency management.”

Lessons learned from previous disasters or major events are passed on to improve responses.

Among the topics was how to prepare for extreme weather and what municipalities can expect. There were also presentations from Canadian Red Cross and Alberta Health Services.

Don Huestis, director of emergency management for the Village of Clive, said events like this have proven their worth and allow emergency responders to share experiences of events like the Pine Lake tornado or the 2005 floods.

“It’s just critical that we highlight preparedness for disasters so that when it does happen we can manage them appropriately.”