Rural areas hurt the hardest when it comes to EMS response.
During last week’s Lac La Biche council meeting, Alberta Paramedic Association raised concerns about how paramedic services in rural Alberta are lacking compared to urban areas of the province.
Dusty Myshrall, president of the Alberta Paramedic Association, addressed the persistent issue that ambulances are taking longer to get to residences that call 911 in rural areas as opposed to urban. One reason for this is that rural areas have a much longer chute time.
“The chute time is the time it takes for paramedics to get into the ambulance once they have gotten the call. The urban centers are down to a 90 second chute time, whereas in rural areas they typically have an 8 minute chute time,” said Myshrall.
The chute time does not include the time it takes for the ambulance to travel to the destination. This means that many are having to wait longer for the ambulance in rural areas.
Ambulances are also taking longer now because the Alberta Health Services has moved the EMS system from a local municipality EMS system to a contemporary EMS system.
“With the contemporary system, the vehicle can only do 14 hours of patient care. What that looks like is if someone in this community called 911, the ambulance that is closest to the caller may be out of service, because paramedics are on mandatory rest,” said Myshrall.
“No matter why someone is calling 911, the paramedics are not allowed to respond and it could be an ambulance coming from a neighbouring community responding to the call, which ultimately means ambulances can take a really long time to get to the call.”
For the city centers, the typical time it takes for an ambulance to get to the caller is 9 minutes. In rural areas on average, it’s 22 minutes.
“If someone calls 911 they should expect that they’re going to get the closest ambulance to them and it’s going to start driving within seconds, and not within 8 minutes, and the crew arriving is not going to be high on hours, and be well rested and fit to do the job,” said Myshrall.
“That’s the industry target rule, so if ambulances are going beyond the 22 minutes that’s really unacceptable. The community deserves better,” said Myshrall.
To improve paramedic services for all of rural Alberta, is to have paramedics set up where they are able to adhere to a 90 second chute time instead of 8 minutes. Myshrall also said there needs to be assembled crews at the base so they can be more efficient when they do get a call.
“We wanted to bring awareness to the County about the pitfalls to our EMS system, and also for them to start changing it and to get it to where they are on that 90 second chute time,” said Myshrall.
Province-wide, it is estimated that making these changes will cost roughly $30 million. Myshrall said this will be an Alberta Health Services issue, and the money will be funded through provincial tax dollars.
Lac La Biche Mayor, Omer Moghrabi, believes it’s important to invest in the safety of our residents.
“There are long term benefits that may save us that money in the long run. This will allow for paramedics to have better performance, and they will be able to serve our residence quicker,” said Moghrabi.
“Every second counts.”