The Saskatchewan government has announced that new paramedic positions will be added to Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in Regina over the next three months.
A total of 24.5 full-time paramedic positions will be added and will cost the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) $2.4 million annually.
“It’s very exciting that we have new opportunities for paramedics in Regina but also across Saskatchewan,” said Saskatchewan Minister of Health Paul Merriman.
“We know there have been some pressures there as well as in Saskatoon. We want to make sure that we have the right complement of individuals to help address any emergency needs in the Queen City.”
This plan comes one day after the SHA and provincial government announced the addition of 100 post-secondary training seats for primary care paramedic students at the Saskatchewan Polytechnic and regional colleges.
EMS call volumes in Regina have increased by over 14 per cent since 2020.
Paramedic Services Chiefs of Saskatchewan (PSCS) president Steven Skoworodko said there are three main causes for the increase in call volume.
“Number one is we’re seeing an increase in population in the province, which is a good thing, but it also means more resources needed in their time of need,” Skoworodko said.
“Secondly, we have an aging senior population. So that baby boomer group is getting older, and as we always get older our needs for health care are increasing.”
He said the third was residuals from the pandemic, like people not addressing their health issues during the height of COVID-19.
“We’ve never seen this shortage of staff and qualified paramedics in the province.”
He said a survey was done of the membership in the spring that showed 102 vacancies in the province, with some of those positions left empty for as long as two years.
“More paramedics and more boots on the ground can meet more urgent needs in Regina,” Merriman said.
The new paramedic positions in the city will fully staff two additional ambulances and two smaller paramedic response units.
Smaller response units are used to assist primary paramedics on advanced calls or beat the ambulance to the scene to start providing immediate care.
“Investing in additional ambulance capacity is not just about adding resources, it’s about improving the quality of life for our paramedics and ensuring the timely delivery of critical care to those in need in our province,” SHA provincial services-community care executive director Rod MacKenzie said.
Saskatchewan is not experiencing a high turnover rate of paramedics from post-secondary schools, so the province said it is focused on retention instead.
“We’re not seeing a lot of those new people come out of school, and we’re finding that a lot of the people that are taking the primary care paramedic program aren’t actually coming out and practising in an ambulance,” said Skoworodko.
He said there are other avenues people can go with that course, like industrial or fire.
“Our paramedics that are trained in Saskatchewan are the best in the world,” said Merriman. “We know that they are sought after but we want to make sure it is advantageous for them to choose specifically Regina and Saskatoon, but also rural and remote communities.”
— with files from Global News’ Brody Langager.