Alberta EMS is getting $8 million. What does this mean for paramedics?
By Katia Maria Gallardo, Contributor
Alberta’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is receiving extra funding from the government to help stabilize high EMS call volumes, Alberta Health Services (AHS) said.
“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,” AHS president and CEO Dr. Verna Yiu said.
AHS is responsible for over four million adults and children living in Alberta. During the pandemic, the healthcare system has come under a lot of strain. AHS reported that after the pandemic, the average number of EMS calls in the province increased from 1,095 a day to 1,521 a day.
All types of emergency calls have increased in the last several months. The uptick in 911 calls have a variety of contributing factors such as wild-fire smoke, heat-related incidents, the COVID-19 pandemic and emergencies relating to people getting back into pre-pandemic activities.
Darren Sandbeck, chief paramedic and senior provincial director of AHS EMS explained, “This will allow EMS to hire new casual staff and to return to using their intended purpose, such as providing short term and temporary relief for paramedics who are off on sick leave or taking vacation time.”
The new funding, totalling $8.3 million, will allow 70 casual positions to be transitioned to full-time positions. Thirty more full-time positions that were hired in 2019 will also be able to stay. The Workforce Planning Task Force has been made to make sure this transition is being handled smoothly. However,while some of these positions are being shifted to full-time, they are not permanent positions and may be dissolved once the rise in 911 calls start to drop back down again.
While this money may help bolster positions that are already filled in AHS, the funding does not go towards hiring any new paramedics. Mike Parker, president of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta, head of the union that represents EMS and other healthcare professionals, noted that this funding does not solve the current hiring crisis.
“It doesn’t solve the issue of not having enough members hired. Every shift is being run short. Without hiring more paramedics, the current government continues to put the system, our members, and every Albertan needing urgent medical care, at risk,” Parker said.
Parker concluded by saying, “We need Alberta Health Services to hire more paramedics immediately.”