Alberta’s chief paramedic leaving post in early 2023

Dr. Ted Braun (L) and Darren Sandbeck (R) present information about the EMS dispatch consolidation to Calgary City Council on Nov. 2, 2020. Global News

Alberta’s chief paramedic is leaving the position in the new year.

Friday, AHS EMS staff were notified Darren Sandbeck “will leave Alberta Health Services as of Jan. 9, 2023.”

AHS confirmed the departure to Global News, saying interim leadership is being put in place.

“Darren has been a recognized leader within AHS since its inception. AHS appreciates the expertise and skills that he has brought to the organization and to emergency medical services in Alberta,” AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson said in an email.

Sandbeck was in the position when AHS transitioned its EMS dispatch to provincial call centres from municipal ones.

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Williamson said AHS was also committed to the 10-point plan to improve EMS response times, shorten turnaround times for teams at emergency departments and increase resources.

Earlier this year, the province announced the successful addition of 10 ambulances each to Calgary and Edmonton. But EMS has seen higher than pre-pandemic call volumes this year.

Click to play video: 'Smith calls for swift and decisive action to repair Alberta Health Services'
Smith calls for swift and decisive action to repair Alberta Health Services

Sandbeck’s departure continues a year-long parade of change in upper-level AHS and Alberta Health officials.

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At question period at the Alberta legislature on Wednesday, Health Minister Jason Copping confirmed Dr. Rosanna Salvaterra and Dr. Jing Hu had both submitted their resignations as deputy chief medical officers of health.

In November, Premier Danielle Smith announced the firing of the AHS board of directors, replacing them with a single official administrator, Dr. John Cowell. Days before, Smith announced former CMOH Dr. Deena Hinshaw would be replaced.

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And in April, Dr. Verna Yiu left AHS as CEO.

At an unrelated news conference, Copping expressed confidence in the “extremely capable people” coming into new leadership roles.

“We are focused on delivering on the key priorities of government, which is building capacity within our in our health-care system, getting down emergency department wait times, getting down the EMS response times, getting caught up on the surgeries and having more health human resources. So we are moving forward on that,” the health minister said.

“There may be change and I appreciate that. But we have some very competent people.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta EMS union says system on verge of collapse'
Alberta EMS union says system on verge of collapse

Copping also thanked Sandbeck for his service.

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The Opposition’s health critic said the government has yet to act on calls for change from front-line paramedics, like signing more paramedics to full-time contracts, getting crews off shift on time and expanding harm-reduction services to ease the burden on ambulances and emergency departments.

“Jason Copping won’t even release the EMS report he commissioned in January and which has sat on his desk for months,” Edmonton-City Centre MLA David Shepherd said in a statement.

“We will be watching closely to ensure that the UCP does not use the departure of the chief paramedic as a cover for privatizing our ambulance system.”

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