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SHA announces additional paramedic positions for Regina to battle shortage

The Saskatchewan government has announced that new paramedic positions will be added to the Regina Emergency Medical Services (EMS) over the next three months.

A total of 24.5 full-time paramedic positions will be added and will cost the Saskatchewan Board of Health (SHA) $2.4 million annually.

“It’s very exciting that we have new opportunities for paramedics in Regina, but also across Saskatchewan,” said Saskatchewan Secretary of Health Paul Merriman.

“We know there has been some strain there and in Saskatoon. We want to make sure we have the right number of people to help deal with any emergencies in Queen City.”

This plan comes a day after SHA and the provincial government announced the addition of 100 post-secondary primary care paramedic training positions at Saskatchewan Polytechnic and regional colleges.

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EMS call volume in Regina has increased over 14 percent since 2020.

Paramedic Services Chiefs of Saskatchewan (PSCS) President Steven Skoworodko said there were three main causes for the increase in call volume.

“First, we’re seeing population growth in the province, which is a good thing, but it also means more resources are needed in times of need,” Skovorodko said.

“Second, we have an aging senior population. So this group of baby boomers is aging, and as we age, our need for health care increases.”

He said the third is residue from the pandemic, like people not dealing with their health issues during the peak of COVID-19.

“We have never experienced this lack of staff and qualified paramedics in the province.”

He said a survey of members conducted in the spring found 102 vacancies in the province, some of which have remained vacant for up to two years.

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“More paramedics and more responders on the ground can address the more urgent needs in Regina,” Merriman said.

The city’s new paramedic positions will fully staff two additional ambulances and two smaller paramedic task forces.

Smaller response units are used to assist primary paramedics on advanced calls or to get the ambulance to the scene to begin immediate care.

“Investing in additional ambulance capacity isn’t just about adding resources, it’s about improving the quality of life of our paramedics and ensuring timely care for those in need in our province with critical care,” Rod MacKenzie, Executive Director, SHA Provincial Service for community care said.

Saskatchewan doesn’t see a high turnover rate of paramedics from post-secondary schools, so the province said it was focusing on retention instead.

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“We don’t see many of these new people leaving school, and we find that a lot of the people who do the primary care paramedic program don’t actually come out and practice in an ambulance,” he said, Skovorodko.

He said there are other avenues that people can take with this course, like industry or fire.

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“Our paramedics who are trained in Saskatchewan are the best in the world,” Merriman said. “We know they’re in high demand, but we want to make sure it’s beneficial for them to choose Regina and Saskatoon specifically, but also rural and remote communities.”

– with files from Brody Langager of Global News.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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