Calgary-area paramedic's death spurs questions on ambulance availability

An Alberta Health Services paramedic died unexpectedly in Airdrie, Alta., just north of Calgary, on Saturday.

AHS says resources not the issue

Alberta Health Services tweeted Saturday that ambulance shortages did not play a role in the treatment of an Airdrie paramedic who died earlier that day. (@AHS_media/Twitter)

An Alberta Health Services paramedic died unexpectedly due to cardiac arrest in Airdrie, Alta., just north of Calgary, on Saturday.

The man — who has not yet been publicly identified — worked with AHS for about 12 years, and was "a dedicated professional, and a friend loved by peers, community, and family," according to a statement from the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA).

"During this very difficult time I encourage all health-care professionals to take a moment for yourself to reflect and to check in with colleagues," said Mike Parker, president of the HSAA, in a statement.

In a second statement issued shortly after 1:45 p.m. Monday, the HSAA said the cardiac arrest took place at the urgent care centre in Airdrie.

"HSAA has no doubt immediate care was rendered by trained health-care professionals — care in which our fallen colleague would have participated, had he not become the patient," the statement reads. 

"There was no Airdrie ambulance crew available to respond. The fact that they had been pulled away from their community when this happened will be a hardship for our members who lost one of their own.

"It is unacceptable that communities like Airdrie are being continually left without an ambulance to respond to emergencies."

The Health Sciences Association of Alberta said it was 'unacceptable' that communities like Airdrie are being left without an ambulance to respond to emergencies. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

The advocacy group Alberta EMS Advisory and Advocacy Coalition wrote in a social media post Saturday that it had received reports that the man was on duty at the time of his death, adding that no ambulances were available in the community at the time.

In response to that post, Alberta Health Services said a shortage of resources was not a factor in the care and treatment provided.

Matt Osborne, president of the Alberta Fire Fighters Association , said details were still emerging in this specific case.

"When it hits close to home, and it's one of our own, it's very hard and it's very tragic," he said. "It's early. We're just focusing on supporting each other, and supporting family."

Earlier this month, there were at least 31 "code reds" or "red alerts" in Alberta — meaning no ambulance was available to respond to calls for help, according to the HSAA.

The weekend of Dec. 12, there were at least 54.

Mike Parker, the president of the HSAA, said in a statement that he was urging health-care professionals to check in on their mental health. (Colin Hall/CBC)

"We have an EMS system right now that's stretched beyond the breaking point," Osborne said.

"Municipal firefighters responded to that scene and did everything they could as they waited for ambulance to transport to hospital."

The HSAA also tracks EMS alerts on social media. The union tweeted about a red alert in Airdrie that was put in place at 6:45 a.m. Saturday.

With files from Joel Dryden