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Province says it will implement EMS recommendations

Mayor Cathy Heron says the province’s announcement last week that it is implementing over 50 recommendations to improve Alberta’s emergency medical service network is a step in the right direction.

Alberta Parish President and Mayor of St. Albert Cathy Heron said the province’s pledge to implement over 50 recommendations to improve the emergency services network is a step in the right direction.

Alberta Minister of Health Jason Copping announced Jan. 16 that the final report of the provincial EMS Advisory Committee, of which Heron was a member, would be released, as well as a report on the EMS shipping system from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) consultants. According to Copping, a plan is being developed to implement all of the recommendations in both reports.

“I’ve said from the start that it appears Minister Copping is very committed to finding a solution for EMS in Alberta, so this is just further evidence that I see as evidence of his commitment,” Heron said in an interview with Great western media

“An enormous amount of time has been spent – by myself and the rest of the committee representatives – [developing those] 53 recommendations, and if some of them just got rejected, it would have wasted all the time and effort we put in,” she said.

The province established the advisory committee in January 2022. It included representatives from the Alberta College of Paramedics, the Alberta Fire Chiefs Association, Alberta Municipalities, Alberta Health Services (AHS), the Health Sciences Association of Alberta and more, and three MLAs. A full list of committee representatives is included in the final report on the province’s website.

Last May, the province announced 10 initial recommendations to be implemented immediately, including developing guidelines for paramedics transferring patients to hospital emergency rooms. Those policies were announced at Copping’s January 16 press conference.

“Response times are too long and we need to bring them back down, and that means adding resources and applying new strategies to ensure our paramedics can be there when they’re needed,” Copping said.

The committee’s remaining 43 recommendations include strategies to improve EMS capacity, system performance, and working conditions for first responders.

shipping verification

PwC EMS Shipping Verification comes after Calgary, Lethbridge, Red Deer and Wood Buffalo shipping centers were consolidated into one centralized system in 2021.

The report states that Alberta’s centralized shipping system broadly follows leading practices in other jurisdictions in Canada and around the world, but has room for improvement.

A key recommendation is to give ambulance workers and paramedics access to electronic health records.

“To move away from episodic care, patient health information needs to be made available to assessors and paramedics,” the report said.

“AHS EMS Dispatch should seek to integrate this information into their systems and processes to provide call dispatchers with insight into past treatments, current medications and chronic illnesses so that the most appropriate care can be provided.”

The committee recommends that the province pilot a project that would legally allow paramedics to treat patients at the point of an emergency call, when appropriate.

Alberta’s EMS capacity expanded 2.2 percent between 2017 and 2022, according to the Dispatch Review Report, despite a 39 percent increase in call volume and emergencies over the same period.

“Alberta had expanded total capacity by 2.2 percent, but due to staffing issues, actual system growth was only 0.8 percent,” it said.

“When we consider the significant increase in workload on the EMS system due to an increased number of events and the time to complete each event, as opposed to stagnant system capacity, the entire EMS system is under significant stress.”

Great western media contacted the Department of Health to see if and when the plan to implement the recommendations would be released, but had received no response at press time.

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