Alberta invests $8.3M to fund 100 EMS positions

CALGARY — The province is providing $8.3 million to Alberta Health Services to fund 100 EMS positions, officials announced Monday.  

“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,” said AHS president and CEO Dr. Verna Yiu.

“Our paramedics play an important role in health care, and this investment provides stability of funding so they can continue to provide high quality patient care to Albertans who need it.”

The funding will allow EMS to transition 70 casual positions to temporary full-time positions. EMS has also received additional funding to continue with approximately 30 full time positions in Calgary and Edmonton that had been hired temporarily in 2019.

“This will allow EMS to hire new casual staff and to return to using our casual positions for their intended purpose, such as providing short-term and temporary relief for paramedics who are off on sick time or taking vacation time,” said Darren Sandbeck, chief paramedic and senior provincial director of AHS EMS. 

A task force with representatives from all health zones in the province has been created to help fill the positions quickly. Some of the positions have already been posted.

The number of 911 calls received by Alberta EMS has gone up in recent months for a variety of factors, including the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, an increase in wildfire smoke-related calls, heat-related events, and emergency calls as Albertans have been returning to pre-pandemic-levels of activity.

Officials say all call types have increased. 

“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,” said Health Minister Tyler Shandro.

Before the pandemic, EMS received about 1,095 calls to 911 per day and it is currently sitting at 1,521 calls per day.

“This funding helps us keep paramedic numbers stable so we can continue to respond to emergencies,” said Sandbeck.

“We also continue to work with our Emergency Department partners and the Government of Alberta on new strategies to shorten the time it takes to transfer care from an ambulance to the appropriate hospital department so that paramedics can return to service sooner.”

Paramedics have said recently emergency response times are skyrocketing as increased demand for EMS services has created a patchwork effort to provide coverage.

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