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Expanding EMS transport locations to reduce wait times (video)

Provincial Press Release July 6, 2021 @ 9:48am published at 1:30pm

Albertans requiring emergency medical services (EMS) can now be transported to alternative care locations instead of emergency departments so more ambulances can get back on the road faster.

Transport by ambulance to many health-care facilities, such as hospices or community health centres that assist with urgent but non-life-threatening situations, were not previously allowed under government-sponsored benefit programs. This limited EMS ambulances to only transport patients to emergency departments instead of locations that made the most sense for the care required. Removing this outdated requirement reduces bureaucratic red tape and allows EMS to transport patients by ambulance to alternate locations other than hospital emergency departments.

“We have seen far too many times ambulances lined up at emergency departments with non-critical patients waiting to receive care. Often, these patients don’t need emergency services and would be better served at other health-care facilities. Albertans requiring EMS should be taken to the most appropriate health-care facility – and ambulances should be back on the road as quickly as possible to reduce EMS wait times. This is one of many steps we’re taking to improve the EMS system for Albertans.” Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health From 2017 to 2019, EMS ground ambulances responded to approximately 90,000 non-urgent events where directing patients to alternative care sites could have been considered. By the end of this year, 10 alternative health-care facilities across Alberta will be included in the first phase of this change, with many more locations being added by 2023.

When paramedics can take Albertans to health-care locations other than emergency departments, it improves access and speed of care in non-life-threatening medical events. Albertans can receive better management of chronic illnesses by referral to a location best able to support their immediate situation and ongoing health needs. Expansion of health-care destinations for ambulances will also reduce strain on hospital emergency departments.

“Expanding the types of health facilities that EMS ambulances can transport patients to enables better patient care and reduces reliance on hospital emergency departments in situations where they are not needed. We can help ease the strain on patients and our emergency departments by allowing transport to alternate destinations for non-emergent or follow-up care.” Darren Sandbeck, chief paramedic and senior provincial director, Emergency Medical Services, Alberta Health Services

Alberta’s government is committed to making emergency medical services more responsive to the needs of communities and individual Albertans. Integrated service level planning, better triaging of 911 callers and connecting them with non-EMS care when needed, more effective use of data and expanding performance metrics to drive improvements are just some of many ways we are working to make the system better for everyone.

“We thank the Government of Alberta for this change. This expansion of service will support vulnerable and sometimes frail patients with transportation and direct access to the support and care they need within their community. This change will support our patients and their families and provide an easier transition to palliative care.” Sheli Murphy, senior operating officer, Rural Services, Covenant Health

“Alberta’s government is committed to finding more effective and efficient ways of supporting Albertans in need of medical services. The inclusion of St. Joseph’s home and hospice as an ambulance destination will be welcomed by many in the Medicine Hat community.” Michaela Glasgo, MLA for Brooks-Medicine Hat

Government will continue to streamline the EMS system so it is more responsive to the needs of communities and individual Albertans. Emergency medical services are part of the health-care system and as such will be further integrated with other health services using evidence-based data to support better access and service levels to support the health of Albertans.

Quick facts

  • Wait times include the time from when EMS arrives at a hospital emergency department with a patient until that ambulance is available to respond to another call.

  • Paramedics transporting to emergency departments must continue to treat the patient until care is transferred to emergency department staff.

  • Phase 1 facilities already receiving patients being transported by ambulance:

    • St. Joseph’s Home Carmel Hospice (Medicine Hat)

    • St. Michael’s Health Centre (Lethbridge)

    • Bashaw Care Centre (Bashaw)

    • Sylvan Lake Community Health Centre (Sylvan Lake)

    • La Crete Health Centre (La Crete)

    • Rainbow Lake Health Centre (Rainbow Lake)

  • Additional Phase 1 facilities to be included by Dec. 31:

    • Magrath Health Centre (Magrath)

    • Piyami Health Centre (Picture Butte)

    • East Calgary Health Centre (Calgary)

    • Slave Lake Family Care Clinic (Slave Lake)




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