By Carlie Connolly
Alberta Health Services has been watching the call volume in the Medicine Hat area which also involves the County for quite some time, and saw and increase in call volume back in the summer of 2013.
Sandy Halldorson executive director for EMS clinical operations in the south zone for Alberta Health Services said that started planning last summer and fall to increase the number of staff, which would mean increasing the number of ambulances available.
“We also looked at how we could better align the types of resources with the types of call volume that we had because we respond to both emergency calls and then what we call interfacility transfers of patients between hospitals,” he said.
For example, between Medicine Hat Regional Hospital and Calgary, for certain patients to be admitted or to have specialized diagnostic imaging done that they don’t offer here, some of the new resources they’ve added can address those needs by having different levels of care. They can match the need of the patient to the type of care they will provide to have those patients transported to those locations.
“What this does is it allows us to have more advanced life support ambulance crews available to respond to the emergency calls both in the city and out into the county.”
They have added six new personnel to their 30 staff, making it now 36 frontline staff, which is a 20 per cent increase in the overall staffing.
Halldorson said that there is around 700 to 800 calls a month, but it fluctuates month-to-month. The call volume before was stretching the resources to their max.
Last March, they started pulling the plan together and started with consultation with their staff and the union that represents the paramedics in Medicine Hat. In the last three months they have been implementing, hiring people, training and orienting and getting them ready for the April. 1 rollout.
They’re going to now have three ambulances 24 hours a day and those are advanced life support ambulances. In addition to that they will have two advanced life-support peak crews that will work 12 hours a day. They also have a basic life support unit (BLS), which will not have a paramedic onboard, but an EMT and EMR. They will work straight days, seven days a week, with their primary role being to do those inner-facility transfers for patients that need to go from hospital to hospital.
A non-ambulance transfer (NAT) will also be put on Monday through Friday, eight hours a day. This is a minivan that will move patients between facilities and these patients are individuals that simply need a level of care, but who are able to walk on their own, can take care of their personal needs and who can sit up as opposed to being in an ambulance. This is different than the BLS, which has patients that require the need more than anything to lie down and be on a stretcher, requiring some mental care, but don’t need the advanced skill set of a paramedic.
Another resource they are putting on is what they call a paramedic response unit and that response unit is manned by one paramedic in a suburban type vehicle. They support the crews by responding as needed to help them on scene, but part of their role is to be able to provide assistance and support to homecare.
There will be a total of two EMRs, ten EMTs and 24 paramedics.
For the local EMS service, there will be three Ambulances available 24/7, compared to two at 24 hours a day. During the day they would peak up to five peak crews, and now they have three ambulances peaking up to six, plus the paramedic response unit and the non-ambulance transfer van.
“We’re hoping to see a reduction in response times, and our data shows that we should see that as well because there will be more crews available and we will have the advanced life support ambulances available to respond to 911 calls as opposed to doing inner-facility transfers.”