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Highwood MLA named co-chair of new EMS advisory committee

As ambulance wait times skyrocket and red alerts roll across Alberta, the province has announced a new advisory committee, 10-point plan and third party audit to cope with widespread worry when it comes to the province's EMS.
Sigurdson-Presser
Highwood MLA RJ Sigurdson speaks during a press conference on Jan. 24, where he was confirmed as a co-chair of the new Provincial EMS Advisory Committee, alongside Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard.

Highwood MLA RJ Sigurdson is adding another bullet point to his resume. 

Sigurdson, along with Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard, will co-chair the newly established Provincial EMS Advisory Committee, announced by Health Minister Jason Copping on Jan. 24.

"We are ready to get started on this important work to find timely solutions to alleviate the stress on EMS staff and provide assurance to Albertans that when they are in some of the worst moments of their lives, EMS will be there," Sigurdson said Monday. 

The new committee — which is made up of contracted ambulance operators, unions representing paramedics, municipal representatives and Indigenous community representatives and co-chairs Sigurdson and Allard — is set to report back to the health minister in May with their recommendations. 

"Members will collaborate, identify concerns, provide advice and inform a new provincial EMS service plan," a provincial statement reads.  

The Health Science Association of Alberta (HSAA), who has been committed in their effort to publish red alerts and staffing shortages in the province, will be at the committee table. 

HSAA president Mike Parker said the group is ready to get to work but will not show any support to proposed solutions that lead to privatization. 

"My focus throughout this process will be the health of Albertans and ensuring care is there when they need it," Parker said. "Every dollar needs to be spent on patient care — not profits for private contractors.”

Sigurdson said he has heard the concerns of his constituents and Albertans regarding EMS staffing and response times and said, "they are worried." 

"I want to remind them and everyone — you should never hesitate to dial 911 when you or a loved one or someone else is experiencing a medical crisis," he said. 

The province said EMS has seen a 30 per cent increase in 911 calls over the past several months. Staff fatigue, illness, hospital offload delays, additional requests for patient transfers and delays in new ambulances and specialized vehicle parts due to global supply issues add to the stress. 

Sigurdson continued by saying that the current delays are not a reflection of the dedication of provincial EMS. 

"Our province has highly trained, committed personnel that will always rise to the challenge to help you and your family in a time of need," he said. "That's the kind of people they are." 

Ahead of the province's announcement, the NDP released numbers regarding red alerts in Edmonton in Calgary obtained through a Freedom of Information request. 

According to the official opposition, YYC and YEG saw 2,276 EMS red alerts between Aug. 1, 2021, and Dec. 6, 2021, with an average of over 17 alerts per day. 

No information regarding red alerts in rural centres was provided through this FOI. 

Copping and Sandbeck also highlighted details of AHS' 10-point plan, which they said will ensure patients in their most critical state receive immediate care while maximizing current EMS system capacity. 

According to the province, five points of the plan are already underway, including hiring more paramedics and stopping the automatic dispatch of ambulance to vehicle collisions that don't have injuries. 

A third-party will also conduct a review of the province's EMS dispatch system next month, something that municipalities voted in favour of back in November at the Alberta Municipalities convention, following a resolution put forward by the Town of Okotoks. 

"Access to emergency medical services is vital for all Albertans," said Sigurdson. "And the sustained pressures paramedics are facing currently is a concern for all of us." 

This committee's goal is to ensure and improve timely service to Albertans while at the same time, supporting the most critical piece of that equation — our EMS staff across all of Alberta." 

 


Lauryn Heintz

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