Ambulances could be delayed by Metro LRT traffic, warn paramedics

Edmonton paramedics are sounding the alarm over traffic delays caused by the Metro LRT Line near the Royal Alexandra Hospital.

Paramedics say patients en route to Royal Alexandra Hospital could be delayed by traffic near the Metro LRT

Paramedics have raised concerns about getting ambulances through the heavy traffic expected to pile up during rush hour along the Metro LRT route, near the Royal Alexandra Hospital.

Edmonton paramedics are sounding the alarm over traffic delays caused by the Metro LRT Line near the Royal Alexandra Hospital.

"Time is very sensitive," said Evan Stratichuk, a paramedic and member of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta board, which presents about 1,000 Edmonton EMS staff. 

"Having that delay can be quite detrimental to our patients."

On Wednesday, the city announced the Metro Line will likely cause serious traffic congestion along Princess Elizabeth Avenue and 111th Avenue, near the hospital.

Drivers can expect to wait up to 16 minutes to clear a single intersection during rush hour once the line is running.

Alberta Health Services chief paramedic Darren Sandbeck said crews may take ambulances to other hospitals if traffic is too congested around the Royal Alexandra Hospital. (CBC )
"Minutes actually matter," said Elisabeth Ballermann, Health Sciences Association of Alberta president. "Minutes can make the difference between life and death."

The Royal Alexandra Hospital receives about 45 patients by ambulance every day, and about four of those are usually emergency cases.

Alberta Health Services chief paramedic, Darren Sandbeck, said he's also concerned about a potential delay, but ambulance crews are experienced at dealing with traffic issues.

"We run into these situations all the time," he said.

He said drivers can always turn on their lights and sirens to get around traffic, but Stratichuk said even that it not always enough.

"When there's a large amount of congestion, even though we have lights and sirens, the other drivers can only go so far out of the roadway," Stratichuk said.

Sandbeck said AHS will also consider taking some patients to different hospitals during rush hour if the traffic is too dense.

Transportation general manager Dorian Wandzura said AHS has known for years about the added traffic congestion associated with the Metro Line.

"We do have a direct line of communication with our operations centre and our emergency service providers," he said.

Deputy fire chief Bryan Singleton said Edmonton Fire Rescueis also looking into alternate routes, now that news of the traffic delays have been announced.

Wandzura said the city will have staff stationed at key intersections along the LRT route next week to respond to emergencies and major traffic issues.

The line opens with reduced service on Sept. 6.

With files from the CBC's Gareth Hampshire


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