Alberta Health Service (AHS) Emergency Medical Services (EMS) recently made a presentation to Lacombe Council in response to Councillor Chris Ross’ concerns regarding extensive wait times for emergency situations in Lacombe.
The target for AHS EMS is under 15 minutes response time, something Ross says is being hindered by Lacombe’s two EMS units being flexed (sent out of region) to other communities.
“Fifty-three per cent of the calls that Lacombe EMS is responding too — out of total 3,345 calls in total — are being made to outside of Lacombe,” he said. “Twenty-six per cent of those calls — 880 calls — are specifically in Red Deer.
“That is a real concern of mine that 675 times in 12 months that units (ambulances) are being flexed for service into Lacombe while we are going into Red Deer 880 times.”
The solution to Ross is clear. With only five units currently serving the City of Red Deer, Red Deer needs two more ambulance units.
“I think the numbers very much justify further support for Central Alberta, with Red Deer receiving two more units,” he said, adding Lacombe currently doesn’t have the infrastructure currently to support another unit in the City.
“That could mean the City of Lacombe building another facility, possibly with a future fire hall,” he said. “Currently, there is adequate facilities in Red Deer with their fire halls to accommodate additional units — 880 times our service going to Red Deer is unreasonable.”
Ideally, Ross would like to see all emergency calls in Lacombe being responded much less than the targeted 15 minutes.
“There is a lot of residents in urgent calls that have waited significantly. I think that any emergency call within the City of Lacombe should be dealt with within 10 minutes or less. Life should be put forward first,” he said.
Long-term, the Red Deer Regional Hospital getting a catheterization lab would mean that less ambulances would be needed in that City to transfer patients to Edmonton and Calgary for life-saving procedures.
“That is not going to happen in the short-term,” Ross said. “In the short term, our residents need adequate health care, which means expanded EMS care. I don’t think everyone realizes the scope of practice of EMS. They can administer clot busting drugs for cardiac situations on scene — paramedics can deliver a lot of care that a lot of people don’t realize.”
Ross recently spoke his concerns to the Alberta Minister of Health, Sarah Hoffman, at the AUMA conference held in Red Deer who announced at AUMA that Alberta will receive seven new units total — the locations of which are unknown at this time.
“I am still in touch with Alberta Health. Hopefully we can have a solution. The solution is that Red Deer gets more coverage. I hope we can advocate through administration and Council that we are unjustly not being covered,” Ross said, adding that example that Ponoka is currently being served by three units for a population of 6,000-7,000 people — roughly half that of Lacombe.
“I encourage citizens that have had lengthy response times to follow through with Alberta Health Services. Make EMS aware of the numbers,” he said.
Ultimately, Red Deer, Lacombe and Central Alberta would all be served better by the introduction of two new units to Red Deer
“Over 100,000 people needs to be covered by more than just five ambulances,” Ross said. “I don’t think that it is fair that Innisfail, Sylvan Lake and Lacombe are backing up the City.
“There is a lot of time that Red Deer has one ambulance and their fire department paramedics are waiting to transfer patients. A lot of times they are waiting for units from Innisfail, Sylvan Lake or Lacombe, because there is none available in Red Deer.”
Ross added, “Hopefully we can have a solution. I will keep following up. It is my job and it is my passion. Lobby your MLA and hopefully we will see a difference.”