Alberta moving on ambulance ‘remedy’

The Alberta government is moving to streamline and centralize its ground ambulance dispatch to remedy the current patchwork of systems.

The Alberta government is moving to streamline and centralize its ground ambulance dispatch to remedy the current patchwork of systems.

Health Minister Fred Horne has asked for an implementation report by the end of the month and wants to move quickly to improve service.

“What we’re looking to do is finish what we started,” Horne told a news conference Monday in an ambulance bay east of Edmonton’s downtown.

Horne was responding to a report from the watchdog Health Quality Council on recommendations to improve emergency services.

Alberta had planned to move to one provincewide dispatch system in 2009 but it was halted by logistical and mapping concerns, including urban dispatchers being unfamiliar with rural areas.

That same year, all provincial health regions were consolidated into the current Alberta Health Services superboard. Dr. John Cowell, the head of the Health Quality Council, said Alberta Health Services has done good work mapping out optimal routes.

“All of these mix-ups over where do you go — how do you find Aunt Jane out there on Rural Road Number 87 — are going to be solved because an effective map is there and we know where the ambulances are in real time,” said Cowell.

The consolidated dispatch system is one of four Health Quality Council recommendations being accepted and acted upon by Horne’s department.

Horne said he is also implementing a plan to standardize emergency care across Alberta recognizing the unique needs of urban and rural areas.

The implementation plan, including timelines, is to be delivered to Horne by March 31.

He has further ordered up a comprehensive single-source data system to allow for more complete information, along with new rules governing quality and safety management.

In addition to the Health Quality recommendations, Horne has asked for specific provisions to minimize ambulance wait times at major hospitals and options to limit the use of ambulances for routine inter-facility transfers.

Wildrose health critic Heather Forsyth said she will wait to see what happens, noting that often what the government promises to do doesn’t actually take place.

“What we’re seeing here is government that is really just like a dog chasing its tail. It doesn’t know where to start and where to finish,” said Forsyth.

“It will be interesting to see how they roll this all out.”

Liberal health critic David Swann said centralization should never have been abandoned in the first place.

“Where was the planning three years ago?” asked Swann, a medical doctor.

“Why have we gone through three years of chaos, suffering, risks to lives and demoralization in our workforce because our government failed to do a proper approach to this?

“Now we’re playing catch up.”

The quality council report validates the concerns raised by front-line workers, but fails to address some of the major issues, said Elisabeth Ballermann, president of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta.

“Members of our union went public with problems plaguing EMS because they are professionals who care about patients,” she said.

While the report will help alleviate some of the dispatch and inter-facility transfer problems, “I have seen nothing specifically addressing the concerns about resources, or any guidelines to assist in determining how many ambulance teams are required to meet the needs of Albertans.”

She said EMS workers are the canaries in the coal mine of health care.

“The shortages of long-term care and acute-care beds in Alberta mean our emergency crews are stuck in hospital emergency rooms for hours because there are no staff to take over the care of the patients and no beds to which patients can be admitted,” said Ballermann.

“At first glance, I see no move to address those problems.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Board of Trustees selected the name St. Lorenzo Ruiz Middle School to be built in the north end of Red Deer. (Photo Courtesy of  Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raises about $8,720 for Terry Fox Foundation

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raised about $8,720 for the Terry Fox… Continue reading

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta declines Ontario’s request to send health-care workers

Alberta is “not in a position” to send health-care workers out of… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels allowed four straight goals from the Medicine Hat Tigers Friday night on the road. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers hand Red Deer Rebels 10th straight loss

Tigers 4 Rebels 2 Through 17 games in the shortened WHL season,… Continue reading

Meghan Huizing has been selected by Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools as a finalist for the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) 2021 Edwin Parr Award. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Regional Catholic Schools)
Red Deer Catholic names finalist for Edwin Parr Award

Meghan Huizing from St. Gregory the Great Catholic School in Blackfalds has… Continue reading

GrammaLink-Africa members are participating in the Stride to Turn the Tide campaign until June 30. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer group walking to raise money for African grandmothers

A group of central Albertans will be walking every day until the… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Opinion
Opinion: Canada’s self-esteem needs Trump

Well, it was fun while it lasted. For four years, with Donald… Continue reading

Harley Hay
Harley Hay: Shenanigans on the links

It must be something about my Scottish heritage but I seem to… Continue reading

Muskrats can occupy any wetland that is shallow enough to permit the growth of their aquatic food.
Pearman: Muskrats numbers rebounding in central Alberta

I have spent many pleasant hours muskrat watching. Time spent in the… Continue reading

Montreal Canadiens' Tyler Toffoli celebrates his goal past Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom during second-period NHL hockey action in Montreal on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Toffoli scores twice, Canadiens put some distance on Flames with 2-1 win

Toffoli scores twice, Canadiens put some distance on Flames with 2-1 win

Letters
Letter: Go camping in B.C.

The news is reporting that a lot of people are threatening to… Continue reading

Canadian prop Jake Ilnicki savouring life in Seattle, looks forward to facing Arrows

Canadian prop Jake Ilnicki savouring life in Seattle, looks forward to facing Arrows

Corey Conners, of Canada, hits out of a bunker on the seventh hole during the final round of the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga., Sunday, April 11, 2021. Conners notched six birdies on his back nine to take the lead after his second round of the RBC Heritage on Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Matt Slocum
Canadian Corey Conners surges into lead at PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage

Canadian Corey Conners surges into lead at PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage

Patrick Marleau poised to break Gordie Howe’s games record

Patrick Marleau poised to break Gordie Howe’s games record

Most Read