The City of Red Deer will be asking the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association to support its motion for an independent review of the province’s ambulance system. (Advocate file photo)

The City of Red Deer will be asking the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association to support its motion for an independent review of the province’s ambulance system. (Advocate file photo)

City of Red Deer to seek AUMA’s support for an independent review of ambulance service in Alberta

Another ‘red alert’ for Red Deer was issued last weekend by the paramedics’ union

Following another “red alert,” Red Deer city council plans to seek support for an independent review of the province’s ambulance system from the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association.

On Sunday, at 5:10 p.m., the union representing paramedics tweeted a red alert to notify area residents that no Red Deer ambulance was available to respond to local emergencies as all are already on calls.

Three previous such alerts for Red Deer were put out over social media in October.

They were among 20 red alerts made over three days in last month in communities across the Alberta, according to the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA).

Alberta Health Service stated on Tuesday that high priority calls still get “immediate” attention, even though demand for emergency services has been increasing in the province.

But Red Deer Mayor Ken Johnston said the city remains very concerned about whether ambulance service levels are deteriorating and response times increasing.

The City of Red Deer and three other Alberta municipalities have led an impassioned fight to reverse the government-imposed separation of local fire and ambulance dispatching that happened in January.

But there are also other worries about the emergency response system, said Johnston — including computer glitches that have occurred, and these regular “red alerts” made across social media by the HSAA.


-‘Red alerts’ are an issue in Red Deer and central Alberta

When the AUMA meets from Nov. 17-19, the City of Red Deer plans to present a motion that’s already been seconded by the Town of Magrath. It calls for an independent review to be done of the province’s ambulance service.

If the motion is officially accepted by the AUMA, then the provincial association of urban municipalities will start lobbying the provincial government to launch an independent review of ambulance services in the province.

Johnston believes the AUMA will put some clout behind the demand for a third-party investigation into whether ambulance response times are lining up with professional standards.

“We will have the collective voice,” said the mayor.

Red Deer’s acting Red Deer Fire Chief Tyler Pelke said red alert situations, in which all ambulances are tied up and none are available to respond to calls, could last for a few seconds, or few minutes, or even for 10 or 11 minutes.

Whenever this occurs, Alberta Health Services, which contracts Red Deer EMS, will look at the best options available — whether it’s pulling in an ambulance that had been waiting to transfer a patient into a hospital bed, or bringing in an out-of-town ambulance, if needed, which happens regularly.

See also:

-City of Red Deer takes ambulance dispatch battle to ombudsman

Pelke said these options could increase ambulance response time, so “it’s always concerning.”

In 2009, the City of Red Deer had nine ambulances. When AHS took over it was reduced to five.

On Tuesday, the Alberta Health Services acknowledged an “unprecedented increase” in emergency calls in the province, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, opioid crisis, and people returning to regular activities.

“All call types have increased, and staff illness and fatigue are also contributing to challenges in the EMS system.”

AHS stated that Alberta’s emergency response system is in constant flux so “system adjustments are made minute by minute to make the best use of the existing resources… We are ensuring that the most critical patients are prioritized for receiving immediate care.”

AHS stated that it has brought in additional staff and vehicles, and is filling 100 paramedic positions across the province. Among its other options, “EMS is deploying supervisors, delaying some non-urgent transfers, and also working closely with hospital teams to ensure timely flow through our emergency departments…. EMS is also offering overtime to staff who are willing.”

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