Saskatoon paramedics overrun with calls

MD Ambulance scrambled to respond to more than 700 calls over the holidays.
MD Ambulance scrambled to respond to more than 700 calls over the holidays, Steve Pasqualotto reports 1:13

The Christmas holidays were hard on paramedics in Saskatoon.

MD Ambulance scrambled to respond to more than 700 calls between Dec. 24, 2012 and Jan. 2, 2013, a 16 per cent increase from last year. It has been getting about six per cent more calls every year for the past few years. EMS calls are also up in Regina and Prince Albert.

Gerry Schriemer, a spokesperson for MD Ambulance, said he needs more money to hire more teams.

"It's unfortunate," Schriemer said. "This is one of the problems that can be solved by putting more money into it to allow more resources and more paramedics on the street."

MD Ambulance is asking the Saskatoon Health Region for $3 million more in funding every year to buy at least three more ambulances and hire 28 more people. It got one new ambulance in 2011, but MD Ambulance said it needed four.

"I've heard from some of my other staff that have stated that this is the worst that they've worked in ten years," Schriemer said. "Our call volume has constantly increased, especially this holiday season over last year."

Schriemer partially blames the problem on Saskatoon's growing population.

Doug Line, with the Ministry of Health, said the provincial government is not promising any more money in the spring budget for ambulance services.

Line said the government gives health regions a lump sum and it is up to each region to find efficiencies.

"We would be looking to the region and the operator to arrive at the proper complement of resources that would be available," he said.