AHS says hundreds of paramedics have been hired since 2020 to deal with an increase in calls. (Advocate file photo)

Hundreds of paramedics hired since 2020: AHS

EMS has hired 202 new employees, including 167 paramedics, in first six months of 2022

Alberta Health Services says it has hired more than 700 paramedics since 2020 to meet spiking emergency calls.

“EMS has been in a constant hiring cycle and continues to have a robust pool of applicants,” said AHS in an email.

In the first six months of this year, EMS has hired 202 new employees, including 167 paramedics. That comes on top of the 340 paramedics recruited in 2021 and the 236 added in 2020.

New ambulances are also hitting the road. Five additional ambulances in each of Calgary and Edmonton are already operating and 10 more, split between the two cities, will begin carrying patients in September.

“These resources will help address pressure in the province’s largest and busiest Zones and will also have a positive ripple effect on neighboring areas, allowing EMS to help maintain local ambulances in the areas where they are based.”

In Central Zone, 10 temporary rover paramedic positions, first hired in 2021, are being extended at least until March 2023. The rovers are meant to fill in on short notice.

North and South Zones also received 10 positions, while Edmonton and Calgary got 40. All are being extended until March. Edmonton and Calgary are also getting 40 primary care paramedics next month.

Lacombe has also recently added an ambulance that will be available 5:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. on weekdays and from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. on weekends. The addition is expected to provide more support to surrounding communities.

AHS says that in Red Deer in June, EMS’s median response times to critical calls was about eight minutes, 13 seconds, slightly above the eight-minute target. The target for responding to 90 per cent of calls is 12 minutes, about a minute below the median response of 13 minutes, eight seconds.

Paramedic shortages were highlighted by their union earlier this week.

Health Sciences Association of Alberta president Mike Parker tweeted that 644 AHS paramedic shifts were unfilled in the province on Monday. That estimate is on the low side because it does not include shifts unfilled in contracted ambulance services or through municipalities.

Parker said many paramedics are getting burned out by mandatory overtime and other pressures and are quitting. Hundreds more paramedics need to be hired to fill the gaps.

AHS acknowledges there is “significant pressure” on the health-care system and EMS, driven by higher-than-usual volumes of seriously patients requiring an ambulance. In some cases, emergency calls are 30 per cent higher than-pre-pandemic numbers.

It is not just an Alberta issue. EMS services across the country are facing similar demand pressures, says AHS.

The province rolled out an EMS 10-Point Plan earlier this year that is meant to address the issues.

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