Alberta Health Services Emergency Medical Services has received budget approval for temporary funding to help stabilize staffing over the coming months, as part of a plan to manage continued high EMS call volumes.
“This funding will help stabilize EMS staffing levels and ensure that we are able to respond to Albertans and also take care of our staff,” said Dr. Verna Yiu, AHS President and CEO.
“Our paramedics play an important role in health care, and this investment provides stability of funding so they can continue to provide high quality patient care to Albertans who need it.”
In total, 100 positions will be funded by AHS at a cost of about $8.3 million.
EMS will transition 70 casual positions to temporary full-time positions. EMS has also received additional funding to continue with approximately 30 full time positions in Calgary and Edmonton that had been hired temporarily in 2019.
This will allow EMS to hire new casual staff and to return to using casual positions for their intended purpose, such as providing short-term and temporary relief for paramedics who are off on sick time or taking vacation time, explains Darren Sandbeck, AHS EMS chief paramedic and senior provincial director.
A Workforce Planning Task Force, including representatives from all zones, has been established to ensure the filling of all positions is completed as quickly and seamlessly as possible. Positions are already being posted.
AHS said EMS has been seeing an increase in 911 medical calls over the last several months, due to several combined factors including the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, an increase in wildfire smoke-related calls, heat-related events and emergency calls as Albertans have been returning to pre-pandemic-levels of activity. All call types have increased.
Provincially, prior to the pandemic, EMS averaged about 1,095 911 calls per day. Currently, EMS call volume is averaging 1,521 calls/day.