In July, Alberta Health Services (AHS) made changes to COVID-19 protocols for dispatchers and paramedics, calling the decision a “transition to active recovery”.
According to an AHS memo obtained by Global News, as of July 15, communication officers or dispatchers no longer have to routinely screen for COVID-19 symptoms on calls with patients.
Dispatchers also no longer use the warning ‘Card 36’, which tells paramedics if a patient is presenting symptoms over the phone.
One Alberta paramedic, who wants to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, says these changes are putting them and colleagues at risk.
“With the removal of Card 36 there’s no longer a specific pathway that dispatchers can use to ask if a person is having COVID-19 symptoms… this in turn absolutely puts paramedics at an increased level of risk once they get to the patient,” they say.
“We rely fair heavily on the information that’s provides from dispatchers. To take this tool out of their toolbox at a time when there’s increasing COVID numbers and there’s more questions about the efficacy of vaccines against the delta variant,” they add.
“This will have a compounding affect on a system that’s already more stressed than people realize.”
“The EMS system in Alberta is in distress.”
In a statement to Global News, AHS says that “treating individuals with suspected and confirmed COVID -19 will continue to be part of EMS work and our teams are well prepared to respond. EMS teams also have full guidance on COVID precautions available for their use.”
“Our communications officers (in dispatch) will no longer be screening for COVID symptoms as part of routine call evaluation. But, they can and will still use all screening tools – including asking about COVID symptoms – based on caller information,” the statement goes on to say.
Memo to AHS EMS Staff and CSP