Improvements to dispatch welcome, but other issues remain.
Edmonton (06 March 2013) – The long-awaited report on problems in Alberta’s Emergency Medical System (EMS) validates the concerns raised by front-line workers, but fails to address some of the major issues, says the president of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA/NUPGE).
“Members of our union went public with problems plaguing EMS because they are professionals who care about patients,” says Elisabeth Ballermann, HSAA President, which represents more than 23,000 health-care professionals, including EMS workers.
“While I am cautiously optimistic that the recommendations in the Health Quality Council of Alberta (HQCA) report will help alleviate some of the dispatch and inter-facility transfer problems, I have seen nothing specifically addressing the concerns about resources, or any guidelines to assist in determining how many ambulance teams are required to meets the needs of Albertans. “We also agree with the report’s call for province-wide standards to apply to EMS care, but we urge that those standards be as high as Albertans demand and deserve,” she says.
“EMS is the ‘canary in the mineshaft’ of health care. The problems in EMS are often symptoms of problems elsewhere in they system. The shortages of long-term care and acute-care beds in Alberta mean our emergency crews are stuck in hospital emergency rooms for hours because there are no staff to take over the care of the patients and no beds to which patients can be admitted,” says Ballermann.
“Because the 339-page report has been kept under wraps for four weeks, I have not had a chance to read it in full, but, at first glance, I see no move to address those problems. We welcome improvements to dispatch and hope they will help. However, the problems with EMS cannot be fixed solely by improving dispatch, we need to fix those problem channels that feed into EMS care,” she says.
“We are concerned that this week’s provincial budget will have a damaging effect on health care and on EMS response times. Premier Redford has spoken of a ‘hard-choices’ budget. Our province is growing rapidly, anything less than the 4.5 per cent increase promised earlier will mean cuts to front-line services. That will inevitably trickle down and create more problems for EMS and lead to longer response times,” says Ballermann.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE