The Alberta government is hoping to improve ambulance response times by having community shuttles and wheelchair-accessible taxis transport some patients.
Premier Danielle Smith announced the province-wide program Wednesday to free up ambulances and paramedics so they can respond to emergency calls more quickly.
“Paramedics are highly skilled health professionals who are trained to respond in times of crisis,” she said. “We want to ensure their skills are being used in the best way possible while also ensuring Albertans are not left waiting after a call to 911.”
She says the program, which has been operating in some areas for the past six months, will allow Alberta Health Services to use “alternate modes of transportation” for non-emergency patient transfers.
Dr. John Cowell, who was appointed as the official administrator of AHS after the governing board was fired a month ago, says that transportation could include community shuttles, wheelchair-accessible taxis and modified vans that could properly secure stretchers.
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He says the program has reduced ambulance transfers by about 15 per cent during its test phase in several Alberta communities and could help to free up space in hospitals.
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Opposition NDP health critic David Shepherd says he doesn’t expect the announcement to help the ongoing crisis in the health-care system, which also includes staffing shortages, long surgical wait times and overcrowded emergency rooms.
“The UCP’s response to the EMS crisis is grossly inadequate and does not address the significant staffing shortage throughout Alberta’s health system, including paramedics and emergency room staff,” he said.
“Paramedics have three specific calls which the UCP completely ignored again today. All paramedics must get off shift on time. All part time and casual paramedics need to be offered full time positions. And the UCP has to do far more to offer harm reduction services and reduce the number of overdose calls for ambulances.”
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