AHS announces funding to ‘stabilize’ EMS staffing; union says it doesn’t solve issues

Alberta Health Services (AHS) is making more temporary EMS positions permanent thanks to $8.3 million in new funding from the province.

But the union representing paramedical professionals says it doesn’t add any new positions, putting the system at risk.

According to a release from AHS, 70 casual positions will be made into temporary full-time, and 30 full-time positions hired in Alberta’s two largest cities in 2019 will continue to be funded.

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“This funding will help stabilize EMS staffing levels and ensure that we are able to respond to Albertans and also take care of our staff,” Dr. Verna Yiu, AHS president and CEO, said in a statement.

According to AHS, EMS call volumes have jumped by 50 per cent since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020. The provincial health authority said effects from the pandemic, smoke-related calls, heat-related events, and a return to pre-pandemic activities have increased calls to an average of 1,521 per day from about 1,095.

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The announcement of the stabilization of 100 EMS positions was panned by the president of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta.

“While this funding is important to bolster and maintain 100 already existing positions, it doesn’t actually add a single paramedic to our overburdened health system,” Mike Parker said in a statement. “It doesn’t solve the issue of not having enough members hired.

“Every shift is being run short. Without hiring more new paramedics, the current government continues to put the system, our members, and every Albertan needing urgent medical care, at risk.”

In a statement, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Monday’s announcement was a stop-gap measure.

“We need to do our best to support our paramedics and all healthcare workers now as we continue to see high demand on our healthcare services, and this decision by AHS should provide some tangible short term relief as we work on longer term solutions,” Shandro said.

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Parker said more paramedics need to be hired by AHS immediately.

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“This announcement does nothing to overcome the hiring crisis affecting emergency medical services, or AHS in general,” he said.

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