“Every second counts when it comes to this vital healthcare service; every time there is a red alert, someone’s life could be at risk.” — Jerry Earle, NAPE President
St. John's (04 July 2019) — Records released to the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE/NUPGE) under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (ATIPPA) show that the number of red alerts — the term used when there are no ambulances available to respond to calls — is on the rise in the areas serviced by Eastern Health.
957 times ambulances weren't available in 28 months
There are two levels of red alerts. A Level 1 red alert occurs when an ambulance is not available and a call comes in during that period. A Level 2 red alert occurs when an ambulance is not available and no calls come in during that time. Emergency calls are prioritized during a red alert and some routine calls may be delayed until an ambulance becomes available.
“According to our completed ATIPPA request to Eastern Health, there were an alarming 341 red alert incidents in 2017. That number increased to 460 in 2018. There have been 156 red alerts in the first quarter of this year alone,” said Jerry Earle, NAPE President. “In other words, there were 957 instances in the past 28 months when an ambulance was not immediately available to respond to a call.”
“Every second counts when it comes to this vital healthcare service; every time there is a red alert, someone’s life could be at risk,” said Earle. “Immediate action must be taken to address this issue. This is not a one-off situation; the powers that be have been aware of it for years. Yet despite two external consultant reports filled with recommendations to better the system — things are actually getting worse.”
More risk to staff and health care workers as red alerts rise
In 2017, there were a total of 6552 minutes of red alerts with 196 of those being classified as Level 1 incidents. In 2018, the number grew to 8031 and 251 respectively. The numbers stand at 3283 minutes and 90 Level 1 incidents in the first quarter of this year.
In 2017, there were 372 calls waiting during a Level 1 alert, 87 of which were classified as emergency calls. In 2018, those numbers grew to 538 calls waiting during a Level 1 alert with 136 of those being emergency calls. In the first quarter of 2019, there have already been 219 calls waiting with 48 of those being classified as an emergency.
“These numbers are staggering, and the truly frightening thing is it appears as if the situation is worsening,” said Earle. “Our members need staffing levels, resources, policies, and procedures in place to do their job effectively. We know they are under tremendous stress and many are burning out or burnt out already. Knowing that they may be missing out on precious minutes when someone is in need is not making matters any better for them or their mental health.”
“The number of red alert incidents must be addressed immediately by the Health Authority and the Department of Health and Community Services,” stated Earle. “The goal must be zero red alerts. Our efforts must match that goal. Anything short of that is unacceptable.”
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