Government must end repeated ‘Red Alerts’ in Alberta’s emergency medical services

CALGARY, AB (February 13, 2015): Dr. David Swann is calling on the government to take immediate action to end repeated ‘Red Alerts’ in Alberta’s emergency medical system.

Swann’s call comes after several of Alberta’s paramedics have taken to social media to share their stories of ‘Red Alerts’, which is the term for a period of time when no ambulances are available to respond to emergency medical service calls.

“The situation is so critical that EMS staff are risking their jobs by going public to raise awareness about the dire problems in the system,” says Swann. “The government needs to focus on addressing their concerns, not silencing or disciplining these brave whistleblowers.

“We need to learn from the mistakes of the past, not repeat them,” says Swann. “If we continue to ignore these warnings, it will be disastrous for our front line workers, our health system as a whole, and ultimately all Albertans who rely on them during emergencies.”

The lack of access to emergency and ward beds is resulting in a backlog of ambulances queueing outside of hospitals to transfer patients. Once inside, emergency medical system staff are unable to leave until the patient is admitted. As a result, highly trained paramedics are waiting hours in emergency departments just to transfer their patients. This ties up both staff and vehicles for extended periods of time, making them unable to respond to further service calls.

“Albertans expect ambulances to be available when they need urgent medical help,” says Swann. “Emergency workers are trained to respond with lifesaving speed and skill, but they are impeded from doing so because they simply cannot get back out on the road after the previous call.”

Dr. Swann is calling on the government to move quickly to transfer alternative level of care patients out of hospitals and into the community with increased support in order to alleviate the congestion in the acute care system and allow for better emergency response times.

“The governments’ inadequate support for EMS and disastrous health care privatization policies for seniors’ care are to blame for this mess, and they need to be changed in order to clean it up,” says Swann. “The alarm bells won’t stop ringing until immediate action is taken to ensure better access to emergency medical services.”