In wake of violence, paramedics say province doesn't take safety seriously enough

The head of the union representing paramedics in Alberta says the safety of EMS personnel is not being taken seriously enough by the province.

New training to deal with violent situations will begin in June after Occupational Health and Safety order

EMS workers in the province will receive non-violent crisis intervention training beginning in June, says AHS. (David Bell/CBC)

Advocates say they have concerns about the safety of paramedics in Calgary after two EMS personnel and a police officer were injured during a call.

One of the paramedics received a head injury and it's believed the other came in contact with Taser wires as emergency workers tried to subdue a combative man involved in a crash Monday on Deerfoot Trail.

Both paramedics are now recovering at home.

"This very easily could have been a fatality yesterday," said Mike Parker, president of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta, speaking on Tuesday. 

Kent Douglas Wilson, 52, is facing charges of assault, assault causing bodily harm, assault against a peace officer and resisting arrest, according to police. 

AHS ordered to provide training

Parker says AHS was recently ordered by Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) to provide two days of non-violent crisis intervention training after three Calgary paramedics were injured during a call earlier this year.

"We have a complete new generation of workers out there, of frontline responders, that don't have that training," said Parker.

Parker says the two-day crisis intervention training disappeared when AHS took over ground ambulance service in 2009. Instead, front-line workers underwent a single day of training.

EMS senior management provided a letter to OHS dated May 18, outlining the two-day training plan for its 2,800 workers across the province. There are 966 staff in the Calgary region who will have to take the program.


AHS chief paramedic Darren Sandbeck says EMS staff are currently trained in techniques such as verbal de-escalation and the new program will teach things like self-defence and how to get away from a violent situation.

"When we came through transition that may not have followed us through," he said, regarding training.

"The important part for us right now is that we've recognized this, we recognized it a number of months ago and we are now ready to put that in place to ensure our staff are trained."

AHS plans to have all paramedics trained by December 2018.