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'This last year is absolutely infuriating': Paramedics outline overflowing issues, system stress

Last Updated Jul 5, 2021 at 7:42 pm MDT

CALGARY — First responders are now coming forward with rising concerns surrounding stress on emergency responders and issues that continue to plague the system.

After 660 NEWS spoke with Michael Parker, the president of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta regarding the issue, paramedics are now sharing their stories, and expanding on how these problems are only continuing to get worse.

“This last year has been absolutely infuriating, we have paramedics that are going on stress leave, there are lots of paramedics I know who are choosing a different career path,” said one paramedic who has asked to keep their identity private.

The first responders say they are being forced to work overtime, with two to 20 ambulances going unfilled every shift.

In some instances, ambulances are being called from Vulcan County, Chestermere, and other nearby municipalities to help answer calls.

660 NEWS reached out to AHS in regards to the issue, in which it responded:

“EMS is seeing an unprecedented increase in calls, due to several combined factors including an increase in heat-related calls, and emergency calls related to people returning to pre-pandemic-levels of activity.

Provincially, EMS averages about 1,000 911 calls per day. In the last 7 days (June 28-July 4) the call volume has averaged about 1700 calls per day. All call types have increased across the board.

Last week’s heat wave was a factor in this spike – between Monday July 28, and Sunday July 4, EMS in Calgary and Edmonton responded to 283 heat-related calls (122 in Calgary; 161 in Edmonton). This is significantly higher than normal summer call volumes.

EMS has brought on additional staff and ambulances, is deploying supervisors and delaying some non-urgent transfers. EMS is also working closely with hospital teams to ensure timely flow through our emergency departments. EMS is not mandating overtime, however we are offering overtime to staff who are willing.

EMS staff are working extremely hard to provide timely care to Alberta patients and we thank them for their tireless service.

Anyone who needs EMS care will receive it. We are ensuring that the most critical patients are prioritized for receiving immediate care.

EMS recommends Albertans evaluate the healthcare options available to them including calling 811 or a family doctor with questions or non-urgent medical issues and using emergency departments or urgent care as needed.”