When it comes to a medical emergency every minute counts.
However, a shortage of paramedics and an “unprecedented” increase in 911 calls has led to some longer wait times for patients needing emergency care in Alberta.
The situation was so bad recently, Calgary police (CPS) and firefighters (CFD) had to take matters into their own hands.
According to CPS, they were doing a welfare check on a man in the southwest Friday night. He was found in medical distress and his symptoms were getting worse.
Faced with a 45-minute wait for an ambulance, police and firefighters rushed him to hospital in the back of a police SUV.
Alberta Health Services is investigating the incident.
“This whole ‘code red’ where there are no ambulances in any communities is happening on a regular basis, this isn’t a one time event. I must say, 45 minutes for someone to wait for an ambulance is egregious. The public should be outraged over that,” said Alberta Paramedic Association President, Dusty Myshrall.
Myshrall says this incident is a symptom of a broken system.
“Paramedics are leaving the industry in large numbers because they’re sustaining physical and moral injuries from an overburdened system that’s being propped up on their backs,” Myshrall said.
“Being a paramedic is a difficult job.”
Myshrall says to fix the issue new resources have to be added and better managed, along with actively trying to improve wait times.
“We have to re-establish response time benchmarks that are in line with international standards of eight-minutes response time for urban and 22-minutes rural areas. If we can’t make that, someone has to be accountable for that,” he said.
In a statement Alberta Health Services says EMS is seeing “an unprecedented and historic increase in calls, due to several combined factors including heat-related calls, and emergency calls related to people returning to pre-pandemic levels of activity.”
They said more than 232 front-line paramedics have been hired in the last two years — a nine per cent increase.
The health service reports the median response time for life-threatening events has remained consistent from previous years at 7:15 in urban areas and 15:59 in rural areas.