EMS conditions deteriorate, HSAA survey indicates

Eighty-one per cent say that morale is worse across Alberta.

Edmonton (26 Sept. 2014) — Ground ambulance conditions have not improved and, in most cases, have deteriorated, in the past two and a half years since Emergency Medical Services (EMS) members of Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA/NUPGE) identified key issues that contributed to low morale and jeopardized patient and worker safety.

Alberta Health Services has taken no action on recommendations made in 2012 to improve EMS in the province

"Early in 2012, HSAA/NUPGE brought critical issues in our EMS system to the attention of the Minister of Health along with Alberta Health Services executives," says HSAA President Elisabeth Ballermann. "We, and all Albertans, were promised that these issues would be handled in an urgent manner and, indeed, initial steps were taken to address them, including a study and subsequent report by the Health Quality Council of Alberta.

"We are disappointed that none of the recommendations of that report have been fully implemented to date and that other measures have fallen by the wayside. Their efforts seem to have equated to nothing more than putting a band-aid on an arterial bleed."

After hearing numerous anecdotal accounts about worsening conditions, HSAA/NUPGE conducted a followup survey to determine whether EMS members employed by Alberta Health Services found that conditions had improved, remained unchanged or deteriorated. Althought there was one exception where most felt conditions stayed the same, most EMS members felt that conditions had deteriorated in every issue area.

"It is shocking to me that overall 81 per cent of our EMS members feel that employee morale has deteriorated in Alberta," says Ballermann. "That's in virtually every region throughout Alberta, suggesting that the management problems are entirely systemic."

It shouldn't take public shaming for Alberta Health Services to make changes

"AHS has a huge problem on its hands, and it shouldn't take public embarrassment every two years or so for them to make real changes."

Ballermann noted that there is an example in one region of the province where management took its responsibilities to its employees to heart and made changes that had immediate impacts.

"In Suburban Rural North (Edmonton zone), management has made real efforts to listen to the concerns of our members, and the impact of those measures comes out loud and clear in the survey results. While not all of their concerns have been addressed, it is clear that morale is much higher there than anywhere else in the province," Ballermann said.

"It goes to show what genuine concern and attention can do to mitigate the issues that front-line workers identify, rather than making excuses, or worse, punishing them for making waves."


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


NUPGE Components
Issues and Campaigns
Occupational Groups