Ambulance coverage critical issue in Cochrane, says HSAA

This article was originally published by Cochrane Now on April 9, 2021. You can read the full article below or read the original article here.

The Health Sciences Association of Alberta has collected some shocking data on the ambulance coverage in Cochrane.

HSAA President Mike Parker says the safety and well-being of Cochrane residents are disregarded if the city gets overwhelmed with calls.

He says it’s also impacting other communities in the Calgary region but is particularly concerning in Cochrane.

Parker says their members have been providing them updates that indicate Cochrane has been left without ambulance coverage for hours at a time, and from mid-January to mid-February was left without ambulance service at least 10 times.

“One of the highlights that started appearing was the service availability in the community of Cochrane. As we dug deeper into the information, it became clearer that every time the City of Calgary becomes overburdened with responses, the draw from other communities impacts the coverage. We’re going right out to Kananaskis in one of my examples.”

Parker points to the extreme case of how one Cochrane patient was left waiting 40 minutes.

“Waiting 40 minutes is unacceptable in any way, shape, or form, and it’s about time somebody takes notice that has the power and authority to fix this system to make sure that there is a paramedic available in the community when the call comes.”

The HSAA believes there are not enough crews and ambulances operating in Calgary, and there’s a similar situation in the Edmonton

Parker says it has been an issue for a decade and continues to get worse with each passing year.

Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie is aware of the issue and says he met with health officials of the NDP government even before he was elected.

He says they have been working on the issue by increasing funding but also by attempting to improve the triage at hospitals. He says ambulance crews have been left waiting for extended periods of time at hospitals.

“The ambulance workers end up being at a hospital for up to eight hours with a patient, just waiting to hand off to the physicians and nurses. We’ve been working at bringing that down and improving the triage process. By doing so, we’ve been able to reduce the amount of time that someone’s waiting and the amount of time we’re having that backfill.”

He says he has addressed the issue with Health minister Tyler Shandro.

“We’re working towards a better solution, and he has been aware of that, and they are working on it. We’ll continue to improve that service.”

He says the ambulance response system is designed to dispatch the closest ambulance available, no matter where they are stationed.

“For instance, if you have an incident that occurs in Calgary northwest, and it just happens that the closest ambulance at the time is going to be coming from Cochrane, I think that patient, that individual, wants that care. They need to get to that person quickly and get them to a hospital so that they can be triaged properly and get the care they need. You have to do, what you have to do to provide the best care and attention you can in the most timely fashion that you can.”

Town councillor Alex Reed has red-flagged this issue in the past. He says it also places additional burdens upon Cochrane ratepayers.

“The other half of the story is when these services aren’t available, the Town of Cochrane’s highly-skilled and well-paid firefighters are forced to cover the shortfall at the expense of the town. It’s a clear case of the province’s poor management of the ambulance services and offloading the expense to cover the shortfall on the back of Cochrane taxpayers, who are literally being taxed twice for the same service.”

Parker agrees with Reed’s concern.

“He’s not wrong. The paramedics that are doing this work have tried. We have tried to make this known, and at the end of the day, we need community members to support their frontline EMS and contact their local elected officials and say this is not right.

“This current government is not listening, this current government is not interested in fixing this issue whatsoever, and it continues to offload to others.”