Calgary Herald: UCP deny allegations about cutting overtime for paramedics, EMS workers

This article was originally published by the Calgary Herald. You can view the original article here.

Alberta Health Services has rejected a claim by NDP health critic David Shepherd that the provincial government has prohibited paramedics and EMS workers from working overtime, increasing the number of times that no ambulances are available to respond to calls.

During a news conference Tuesday, Shepherd released documents indicating the UCP government has refused overtime hours for paramedics, resulting in more “code reds” when no ambulance is available. The documents were minutes from an AHS meeting, where Shepherd said he heard from paramedics that overtime hours were being “cut back.”

But in a statement, Alberta Health Services denies any changes have occurred.

“There has been no direction or discussion to reduce overtime for EMS,” the statement said.

Health Sciences Association of Alberta president Mike Parker did say lack of staffing is a concern in the province. He said the number of “code reds” isn’t a new trend, but has been ongoing for at least a decade.

“We’ve never, ever been able to up staff our organization of EMS to a point where we can have very minimal — only in disaster times — code red. But we still hit code red on a very regular basis,” said Parker.

He said more funding and resources would be required to limit the number of code reds.

During the news conference, Shepherd also brought up concerns about between 40 and 60 open EMS positions that haven’t been filled, although he couldn’t say how long the positions have been vacant.

AHS said the process of filling open EMS positions is expected to be complete by June 14.

“It is not unusual for EMS, as with many areas of health service, to have turnover in positions. These are not considered permanently vacant positions — they are simply existing standard and budgeted positions that are in the process of being filled,” AHS said, adding the regular turnover has no impact on AHS’ ability to deliver care.

Before question period at the legislature, health minister Tyler Shandro said he looks forward to working with AHS in making sure the vacancies are filled.