Health centres in Sylvan Lake and Bashaw are now helping to reduce the patient load at Red Deer hospital’s emergency department.
Sylvan Lake Community Health Centre and Bashaw Care Centre are among six alternative health facilities in the province where emergency medical services (EMS) can now transport urgent care patients with non-life-threatening conditions.
Another four health facilities elsewhere in the province will be allowed in December, with many more locations to be added by 2023.
Transport by ambulance to health-care facilities, like hospices or community health centres, were not previously allowed under government-sponsored benefit programs. This limited EMS to only transport patients to emergency departments instead of locations that made the most sense for the care required.
Tyler Pelke, deputy chief of operations with Red Deer Emergency Services, called the expansion of authorized facilities a step in the right direction.
He said Red Deer EMS staff remain as busy as ever and have faced wait time challenges at the emergency department at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.
“We’re pleased to hear about this change as a contract provider for Alberta Health Services EMS. We certainly support any AHS initiatives that are going to reduce those wait times. That ultimately enhances our ability to have more units on the road to attend to folks who need an ambulance,” Pelke said.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro said patients can now be taken to a facility that may be closer, and be seen quicker, when emergency department care is not what they need.
“We have seen far too many times ambulances lined up at emergency departments with non-critical patients waiting to receive care. Often, these patients don’t need emergency services and would be better served at other health-care facilities,” said Shandro on Tuesday in Medicine Hat at the announcement to expand EMS transport locations.
“Albertans requiring EMS should be taken to the most appropriate health-care facility – and ambulances should be back on the road as quickly as possible to reduce EMS wait times.”
From 2017 to 2019, EMS ground ambulances responded to about 90,000 non-urgent events where directing patients to alternative care sites could have been considered.
The province said it will continue to streamline the EMS system so it is more responsive. Emergency medical services are part of the health-care system and will be further integrated with other health services to support better access and service levels to support the health of Albertans.