Paramedics conference in Saskatoon aims to teach, improve services

EMS vehicle parked outside the Paramedicine Across Canada Expo in Saskatoon. Global News/ Tanner Chubey

Paramedics across Canada have been gathering in Saskatoon this week for the Paramedicine Across Canada (PAC) Expo.

The conference began Wednesday and will wrap-up on Sunday.

Presentations revolving around front-line paramedic care, as well as research affecting paramedic practices, sessions to help further educate paramedics, and specialty initiatives including tactical, remote, or collaborative care are taking place at the Saskatoon World Trade Centre.

Read more: Saskatchewan government provides $2.85M subsidy to ambulance operators

“The PAC Expo provides leaders with clinical training and education with the purpose of driving meaningful health-care solutions for Canadians,” says Dave Deines, president of the Paramedic Association of Canada.

Deines said this was the fourth expo held since 2015, adding that having Kaleb Dahlgren, a Humboldt Broncos crash survivor, give a speech was one of the highlights of this year’s conference.

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“It was inspiring to hear, because one thing paramedics don’t get a lot of is that follow-up with patients.”

He said issues like staffing shortages seen in Saskatchewan are not isolated to the province.

“What you’re facing in this province isn’t unique, it’s happening all over the country right now, and not just with paramedicine, but globally with health care. So one of the really big things about bringing everybody together in one room is we can all talk about the same issue, and what one jurisdiction’s doing very well, another jurisdiction may use,” said Deines.

Click to play video: 'Paramedics struggle to answer emergency calls amid staffing shortages'
Paramedics struggle to answer emergency calls amid staffing shortages

Jennifer Larre, owner and operator for WestMed Paramedics in St. Walburg, Sask., said this conference is a good opportunity for networking, as well as learning new things.

“I think our goal is always to improve paramedicine, at a personal level and how well of a practitioner we are, and to also get new things, new products, sometimes a new way of thinking,” said Larre.

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She said they’ve been discussing ways to try and fix problems like the staffing shortage, adding that she’s never seen it this way before.

“I started as a paramedic 16 years ago, and you were lucky to get on as a casual at a service. And now there are practitioners right out of school, walking into full-time jobs, and we’re fighting over them.”

Read more: Southeastern Ontario dealing with delayed ambulance response times

Larre said half of the ambulance services in Saskatchewan are privately owned, and the other half are under the Saskatchewan Health Authority.

She said problems like rising gas prices are bad, but noted that offload delays are still the biggest hurdle paramedics and patients are facing right now.

“Not only does it impact the paramedics that are sitting in that hallway for 12 to 21 hours, it’s the patient that sits on our temporary stretchers and aren’t getting the bigger care that they need in a timely fashion.”

Larre noted that Minister of Health Paul Merriman was at the conference, and had said that he walked through hospitals throughout the summer, and was blown away to see patients and paramedics stuck in the back hallway of a hospital waiting for care.

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She noted that any changes that will happen won’t come overnight, but at least there is hope for improvement.

“Although I wish we weren’t having the problems that we have been having, I am glad that they’re getting recognized.”

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