EMS workers spend many unproductive hours waiting in hospital hallways: survey

RYAN RUMBOLT

Emergency Medical Services employees in Alberta say more can be done to cut down on patient transfers, hallway wait times and ambulance “red alerts.”

The Liberals conducted an anonymous survey of Alberta paramedics this summer. Gary Bobrovitz, spokesperson for the party, said copies of the survey were given to the EMS union for distribution to members.

David Khan, Liberal party leader, shared the results with EMS workers and Calgarians at a panel on Thursday. Bobrovitz said the crowd of attendees was small but included at least a few EMS workers.

The survey findings helped the party draft a number of EMS improvement recommendations to the NDP, calling on the province to reduce overtime hours, lengthy waits for patient handover in hospital while bolstering the community paramedic program.

Over 100 EMS staff responded to the survey anonymously to avoid workplace repercussions, the Liberal party said. And while Bobrovitz said some of the results are “largely anecdotal,” the numbers show EMS members have ongoing concerns with the level of service they can provide and long patient transfer wait times.

The survey summary shows 57.3 per cent of those surveyed believe hallway wait times have increased since they had begun working for EMS. Another 28.2 per cent of respondents believed the wait times were unchanged, with only 9.7 per cent believing wait times have gone down.

The Liberals’ data showed paramedics spent more than 650,000 hours in 2016 waiting to transfer care of patients to hospital staff. EMS staff also clocked more than 135,000 hours of overtime that year, for an estimated $10 million in additional wages at the taxpayers’ expense.

In the survey, EMS workers identified long hallway waits for patient hand over “as a source of delayed response times,” are “impacting the quality of care they were able to deliver,” and are having “a negative impact” on relationships with other healthcare workers and on their “quality of care.”

Workers also said the long waits have “led to red alerts that have forced ambulances out of surrounding areas to cover the Calgary region.”

The Liberals say those surveyed identified a lack of beds, a lack of communication between facilities, and patients who don’t require emergency care using emergency services as possible causes for the long waits.

As far as solutions, workers said more fast track zones, having a doctor present at triage and more long term care options to free up beds could cut down on wait times and take pressure off frontline hospital staff.

In addition to the survey, the Liberals also set up a hotline this summer for EMS workers and citizens to anonymously report their EMS concerns. “In regards to the response from citizens, individuals highlighted increased wait times, as well as issues with provision of care,” the summary reads.

“Individuals spoke about their experiences in the case of some who waited a long time to have their call answered or others whose provision of care was not patient-centred.”

Health Minister Sarah Hoffman criticized the hotline for “directing patient and frontline feedback” away from AHS’s feedback line “and toward their own political party.”

The province increased funding for EMS by $23 million in its 2018 budget and has “committed to creating 2,000 long term and dementia care spaces by 2019,” Hoffman said in a statement.

Albertans with EMS feedback should contact the AHS Patient Feedback team by calling 1-855-550-2555.

(HTTPS://CALGARYHERALD.COM/AUTHOR/RCRUMBOLTPOSTMEDIA) Updated: October 5, 2018

Calgary EMS ambulance P O S T M E D I A A R C H I V E S

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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.