First it was doctors, then nurses, and now Alberta’s paramedics are sounding the alarm over the intense pressures on the province’s health-care system.
“It is an absolute devastation on the people who are working and entrusted to the front lines of our health-care system,” said Mike Parker, president of the paramedics’ union: the Health Sciences Association of Alberta.
“These members are serving their 12-hour shifts and the calls haven’t stopped, so they’re becoming 13- or 14-hour shifts … and the exhaustion rates are just climbing with no foreseeable relief coming.”
Parker said the problem isn’t confined to any one place.
“This issue is province-wide from Grande Prairie to Medicine Hat, Calgary to Edmonton,” he explained.
“The major centres collapse because of no available resources, all rural units are being brought in to help respond to calls leaving all of our communities exposed with no additional resources, no ambulances in towns.”
On top of staffing issues, the union president says there’s a shortage of resources too.
“There are no trucks — physical ambulances — even available to staff anymore, and there are no people to put on them.”
When they get their patients to the hospital, the first responders are stuck.
“Drive past any hospital at any given time to see the trucks lined up waiting to offload.”
According to Alberta Health Services, there’s been an unprecedented increase in calls: between the pandemic, heatwaves, smoky skies and the ongoing opioid crisis.
Christina Gray, the NDP’s labour critic, said it’s all wearing down the province’s EMS.
“They’re part of the acute-care system that is under incredible pressure and strain right now,” she explained.
“Our paramedics are working in this environment where they feel exhausted, overworked, under supported, and a government that doesn’t appreciate them.”
In a statement, AHS noted it has brought on additional staff and ambulances, and is also deploying supervisors and offering overtime hours to those willing to stay late or start early.
“Anyone who needs EMS care will receive it.
“We are ensuring that the most critical patients are prioritized for receiving immediate care,” wrote AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson.
But the union says that’s not enough; the system is overwhelmed.
“You need to match resource levels with population growth and call volume,” Parker said.
Global News reached out to Health Minister Tyler Shandro’s office for an interview but did not receive a response. This article will be updated if a comment is received.