Alberta Liberals propose solutions to NDP Government’s EMS Crisis

Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan and MLA Dr. David Swann issue the following release.

Alberta EMS is in crisis. Data has revealed long hallway wait times, spiraling costs and operational issues:

● Paramedics spent 650,000 hours waiting for patients to be transferred to hospital staff in 2016.
● The average wait time is 1 hour for EMS patient transfer – 4 times longer than the United Kingdom standard of 15 minutes.
● EMS staff worked 135 000 hours overtime in 2016 costing Albertan taxpayers an estimated $10 million in extra wages. It is adversely affecting the health and morale of EMS staff. It may be impacting patient care.
● From September 2016 to September 2017 there were 35 Red Alerts in Alberta per month.

Swann stated “The Alberta Liberal Opposition was tired of waiting for AHS and the NDP Government to take action after we raised this important issue in the Legislature Spring Session. To begin building solutions the Alberta Liberal Opposition launched the EMS Hotline and Survey this summer.

“We’ve used this data and consultation with experts to construct responsible solutions for this ongoing crisis.’’

Khan stated “The NDP Government’s response has been unacceptable. Hallway wait times are out of control and affecting the quality of care. Some of this is due to systemic issues in our healthcare system. Some of this is due to mismanagement. All of it must be fixed.”

“Short term we need more community care paramedics and intermediate ER health care providers coupled with improved technology to help create streamlined hand over procedures.

“Long term we need to expand continuing and community care to free up bed spaces. We also need to launch a public awareness campaign so Albertans better understand when they should or should not go to ER.”

The Alberta Liberals have identified the following problems:

1. Bed block: EMS and ER patients are stuck waiting for admission because beds in the hospital are full. EMS providers have to wait with their patients and that takes 2 person crews and their ambulance temporarily off the street.

2. High demand in ERs: ER is increasingly full of patients needing to be triaged and treated. EMS have to stay and care for their patients because there are not enough health care providers in ER to manage them.

3. High demand on EMS: EMS patient volume is increasing and there are not enough EMS providers to meet that demand.

The Alberta Liberals have put forward the following solutions:

1. Intermediate ER health care providers: ERs should be equipped with additional health care providers capable of rapid triage and short-term patient management. These could include permanent on-site EMS staff (no ambulance) or nurses. EMS crews bringing in patients could hand them over quicker and get back on the road quicker.

2. More community paramedics: Additional EMS providers could be tasked with in-home triage and treat non-life-threatening cases in the community. tHis can also involve transport to an appropriate lower acuity setting such as a walk-in clinic or urgent/intermediate care centre, or refer to family doctor or pharmacist. This will improve EMS capacity and reduce ER congestion.

3. Improve EMS-ER handover efficiency: Accommodating patients in the ER should be the responsibility of the hospital. We need to maximise the use of advanced technology and create streamlined handover procedures to boost efficiencies. This requires coordination of and cooperation by EMS and ER staff.

4. Alleviate demand on the ER: Ensure that ER is reserved for emergencies. Boost public
awareness of alternative care options including family doctor, walk-in, urgent care and pharmacists.

5. Reduce access block: Increase community and continuing care so we can safely discharge more patients sooner and open up more beds sooner for new patients.