18 Alberta communities had ambulance “red alerts” in last 2 months

Since the end of August, 18 communities had at least one time when there were no ambulances available to respond to emergencies

Earlier this week, the Health Sciences Association of Alberta released information about the state of ambulance services in Alberta, and over 200 red alerts have been issued in a dozen communities since the end of August.

The union, which represents over 27,000 paramedical technical, professional and general support employees in the public and private healthcare sectors in Alberta, has been tracking ambulance activity since the end of August and publishing the results, including red alerts, on a new Facebook page they created.

A red alert is when no ambulance is available to respond to any potential emergencies.

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During the first 50 days since the HSAA launched their new Facebook page, the following communities received red alerts:

Community# of red alerts
Grande Prairie19
Red Deer15
Kneehill County10
Medicine Hat8
Stony Plain/Spruce Grove4
Okotoks/High River/Black Diamond2

When communities lack ambulance service, AHS has to dispatch ambulances from surrounding communities to ensure emergency services are available. However, that then leaves those communities with insufficient service.

Not only that, but there were at least 66 communities that had no ambulance service available—despite having parked ambulances—because of insufficient staffing levels, some of them for multiple shifts:

Over 10 shifts

  • Calgary (42)
  • Vermillion (20)
  • Two Hills (18)
  • Andrew (16)
  • Provost (16)
  • St. Paul (14)
  • Airdrie (13)

10 shifts

  • Worsley
  • Hanna

9 shifts

  • Okotoks
  • Hardisty

8 shifts

  • Cochrane

7 shifts

  • Priddis
  • Killam
  • Peace River
  • Claresholm

6 shifts

  • Canmore
  • Drumheller
  • Linden
  • Medicine Hat
  • Innisfail
  • Fort Saskatchewan

5 shifts

  • Wainwright

4 shifts

  • Milk River
  • Barrhead
  • High River
  • Vulcan
  • Didsbury

3 shifts

  • Chestermere
  • Camrose
  • Three Hills
  • Strathmore
  • Bassano
  • Boyle
  • Valleyview
  • Caroline
  • Lac La Biche
  • Nanton
  • Forestburg
  • Vegreville
  • Vilna

2 shifts

  • Black Diamond
  • Taber
  • Drayton Valley
  • Fort McMurray
  • Athabasca
  • Edson
  • Elk Point
  • Lacombe

1 shift

  • Beaver Lodge
  • Rimbey
  • Hinton
  • Sundre
  • Stoney Nation
  • Carstairs
  • Chestermere
  • Tofield
  • Crowsnest Pass
  • Sylvan Lake
  • Westlock
  • Rimbey
  • Olds
  • High Prairie
  • Oyen
  • Brooks

In fact, as of the publication date for the HSAA’s media release, there were nearly 300 paramedic shifts throughout the province without anyone to staff them. And that’s just for this current week.

In addition to ambulances being unavailable, there have been over 50 occasions (basically, 1 a day on average) when ambulance response times was more than 20 minutes, and nearly half of those exceeded an hour.

The HSAA acknowledged that both the COVID-19 pandemic and opioid have played a role in this, but they said these simply worsened an already existing problem that has been building for over a decade.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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