HSAA welcomes continuing spotlight on EMS issues

“We’re sure the hotline will show what we’ve been saying for some time, that the EMS system needs more resources to cope with increased demand."— Trudy Thomson, HSAA Vice-President

Edmonton (25 July 2018) — Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA/NUPGE), which represents paramedics in Alberta, welcomes any initiative that brings attention to the lack of resources in Alberta’s Emergency Services (EMS) system.

Alberta Liberals launch EMS hotline

“Our members have been telling us for years that they are stretched to the breaking point by a system that doesn’t have the resources to do the difficult job they need to do,” says Trudy Thomson, Vice-President of HSAA/NUPGE, which represents more than 25,000 health care professionals.

“We’re sure the hotline will show what we’ve been saying for some time, that the EMS system needs more resources to cope with increased demand. We encourage people who experience problems to talk to Alberta Health Services (AHS) directly, as well as calling the new Liberal EMS hotline,” she says.

HSAA/NUPGE research shows the pressure the health care system is under

In March, HSAA/NUPGE released new information that revealed the scale of the problems facing EMS workers. Soon after, the Alberta government boosted the ambulance services budget by $23 million for this year.

“Our members welcomed this boost in funding and will be watching to ensure it gets spent in the best way to improve the vital service EMS provides. We also welcome anything that continues to shine a spotlight on the challenges our members face every day,” says Thomson.

HSAA’s research revealed:

  • 19.4 per cent increase in EMS events: The number of EMS events increased by 19.4 per cent from fiscal year 2012/13 to fiscal year 2016/17 (the latest figures available). There were 390,511 EMS calls to tackle in 2016/17 – an increase of 63,460 from 2012/13.
  • 12.7 per cent increase in population: The number of people living in Alberta grew by 505,293 in the same time period, to 4,475,455.
  • Only 10 more ambulances: The total number of ambulances added to meet the increased demand is fewer than 10. AHS says that on average there were 328.6 ambulances available per day in 2016/17, compared to 319.2, an increase of only 9.4 ambulances per day, or 2.9 per cent.
  • 3.4 per cent increase in number of paramedics: The number of full-time-equivalent (FTEs) EMS workers employed by AHS has increased by 3.4 per cent from 1,810 to 1,873 . However, there was a decrease of 16 paramedic FTEs from 2015/16 to 2016/17.
  • 10.5 per cent increase in frontline spending: The budget for spending on frontline EMS services, excluding dispatch, has increased by 10.5 per cent, rom $316.7 million to $349.9 million, a far cry from the increase in EMS events and population. The inflation rate for that period was 7.7 per cent, eating up almost the entire increase in funding, meaning almost nothing to cope with increased demands.

For more information, please see these documents showing HSAA/NUPGE's research on the importance of frontline ambulance resources in Alberta; the growing number of EMS events per year; the declining ratio of ambulances to population; the change in frontline ambulance services spending; the number of ambulances and paramedics; a breakdown by zone of the number of times ambulances have been called away from the areas where they are based; and the growth in provincial population.

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 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