Situation so bad in Alberta that some patients are dialing 9-1-1 while they wait in emergency for treatment.
Edmonton (4 Nov. 2010) – The Alberta government must respond quickly to resolve unacceptable wait times now holding emergency medical services (EMS) crews and patients hostage in hospital emergency rooms across the province, says the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA/NUPGE).
The union says wait times are often delaying treatment for patients "for hours" and immediate action is needed.
“The situation has gotten so out of hand that we now have patients calling 9-1-1 from the ER because they’ve waited so long in hospital Emergency Departments,” says Elisabeth Ballermann, HSAA president.
“The provincial government cannot continue to operate our hospitals with ill-conceived, band-aid approaches to emergency health care. They must act now to resolve this – not weeks or even months from now.”
Ballermann was joined by Dr. Layton Burkart, an executive member of the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) who works in both the Royal Alexandra and University of Alberta hospital ERs, for a news conference Wednesday.
Ballermann called for the provincial government to take immediate action to deal with the situation. HSAA represents approximately 1,000 paramedics across Alberta.
"If something catastrophic were to happen, I can’t say I’m confident that Alberta Health Services (AHS) has a plan in place to handle the excess patient loads. Our hospital ERs are already bursting at the seams,” she said.
Ballermann said both HSAA and the AMA are "hearing nightmare stories" about patients being diagnosed with serious issues being subjected to waiting times of four or five hours. In one case, a patient died after waiting four hours, she added.
Paramedics are being impacted by growing hospital emergency bottlenecks. Often, they are forced to remain with patients for hours in hospital hallways, rather than returning to the the road to respond to new calls.
Ballermann said the average Edmonton EMS hospital wait time over the past week was 92 minutes, up from an average of 86 minutes over the previous 12 weeks. The average time for a patient to be transferred out of emergency and admitted to a hospital bed also increased, up to 16 hours from 15.4 hours.
"As an Edmonton emergency physician working at two city hospitals, I can certainly say that emergency department over-crowding and access block are a huge issue for our EMS personnel,” added Dr. Burkart.
“It is common to have five-plus EMS units and their medics tied up for hours while they wait for an emergency department stretcher to be freed up so that they can download their patient and get back on the streets to do the job they are supposed to be doing - saving the lives of Albertans."
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