Edmonton

Paramedics union sounds alarm on ambulance care in Alberta

Alberta's ambulance system is in crisis, say paramedics who gathered at the legislature Wednesday to urge the government to put more ambulances on the road.

Ambulance system in crisis, says Health Sciences Association of Alberta

Mike Parker, President of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta, says ambulance services are in crisis in the province. (CBC)

Alberta's ambulance system is in crisis, say paramedics who gathered at the legislature Wednesday to urge the government to put more ambulances on the road.

"Volumes are so high that we don't have enough trucks to do all the calls happening," said union president Mike Parker.

While the volume of calls has risen 36 per cent since 2009, Alberta has virtually the same number of ambulances on the road, he said.

Parker said Code Reds, which means no ambulances are available, occur every day in Edmonton and Calgary and, in some cases, patients wait 45 minutes for an ambulance.

Union president Mike Parker says ambulance call volumes have increased, but the number of vehicles remains the same since 2009 in Alberta. (CBC)

Darren Sandbeck, Alberta Health Services chief paramedic, dismissed suggestions the system is in crisis, saying anyone who calls 911 will get the care they need as quickly as possible.

Code Red is used as a system management tool to help EMS know when to bring in additional resources, Sandbeck said.

It does not mean AHS is unable to respond, he said.

"When that happens, we do other things like use supervisors to respond to calls, ... we call in other resources to provide that service," he said.

None of the 30 paramedics in attendance would speak to reporters. Parker said they would face disciplinary action or dismissal from Alberta Health Services for doing so.

Sandbeck denied paramedics would get in trouble for speaking out.

"Paramedics are encouraged to advocate for their patients and to raise concerns and bring them forward," he said. "They can bring those forward to their union or AHS without fear of disciplinary action."

The health ministry said ambulance response times have been consistent in spite the increases in call volumes.

Health Minister Sarah Hoffman met with representatives from the Health Sciences Association of Alberta Wednesday, a spokesperson said.

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