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Amid ambulance issues on the local level, union demands province release report on front-line service
Julia Parrish, CTV Edmonton
Published Thursday, January 31, 2013 6:56PM MST
While unions representing first responders in two central Alberta communities are raising concerns over two very different issues – they’re also pressuring the province to release a report they said will shed light on what it’s like to work on ground-level ambulance services.
Unions representing ambulance workers in Camrose said one of the community’s three ambulances is in jeopardy – as two run on an ongoing basis, and the third is only used during peak hours.
“They were told because it was a pilot project, we’re over budget so we’re cutting it now,” Elisabeth Ballermann with the Health Sciences Association of Alberta said.
Alberta Health Services officials told CTV News the change is due to a management issue – citing local decisions that weren’t approved at higher levels:
“I think the decision to suspend use of the third ambulance during peak times was premature,” Kerry Bales, Senior VP of the AHS Central Zone said in a statement. “It’s my responsibility to review any decisions made related to patient care.”
Bales went on to say the third ambulance will still be used during peak hours, while a review of ambulance calls and response times in the area are reviewed.
The change in Camrose is coming to light, as officials in Lacombe have brought in a new policy that restricts the emergency medical services the area fire department can do.
Under the change – members of the fire department will stop responding to the most urgent calls – also known as “Echo” and “Delta” calls.
“Lacombe firefighters are trained to standard first aid, CPR Level,” Lacombe Fire Chief Ed Vandelden said. “It’s my opinion that level of training isn’t appropriate to provide the level of care for those patients.”
Ballerman said fire departments often cover for the lack of resources available to EMS workers.
Meanwhile, the HSAA hopes working conditions of paramedics will be put in the spotlight, when a report on ground ambulance service is released.
It’s a report the Health Minister said he has received, but needs to review before it’s released for public scrutiny.
“The deadline for that report was today actually,” Health Minister Fred Horne said Thursday. “So I’ve just received the report in my office, so I’ll be taking a look at it and I will be releasing it publicly as soon as I can.”
The HSAA believes the report will uncover some major issues with the emergency response system, including dispatch, how employees are treated by management and resources available to staff on the road.
It’s a system the Health Minister admitted has issues.
“I can tell you, as a government we’re very, very concerned about this issue, and quite frankly, we’re angry about some of the stories that we’ve heard,” Horne said.
It’s not clear when that report will be released.
With files from Veronica Jubinville