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Code red: Paramedics union says over 135 calls with no ambulances in 50 days

Last Updated Oct 27, 2021 at 7:23 am MST

Alberta’s paramedics’ union says there have been over 135 red alerts–where there are no ambulances available when a call comes in–in the last 50 days, including 61 in Calgary and 35 in Edmonton.

These are the latest figures being released by some of Alberta’s emergency responders, who are once again raising the alarm about how staffing shortages are impacting 911 calls for ambulances.

“This is a province-wide resource issue, affecting every community in this province,” said Mike Parker, the head of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta.

“Our dispatchers are overloaded and our paramedics are at their end.”


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Parker says they have not been able to keep up with demand and the ongoing staffing shortage is putting Albertans at risk.

“When Calgary or Edmonton goes into a code red, it requires resources to be drawn in from outlying communities and farther and farther out as far away, as a Kananaskis responding into the city of Calgary,” he said.

“We’ve hit a pressure point where the members have just had enough and they need the citizens of this province to understand what they are going through.”

Over the last year, Parker says the number of calls has jumped from about 1,000 a day to nearly 1,500, and the problem is not the number of ambulances.


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“You can have as many trucks parked as you want. There are no people to put on them because we haven’t had a steady increase in the number of paramedics on the streets of this province for 10 years now,” he said.

“The impact on our paramedics today is devastating.”

Parker says in at least 52 cases, it took more than half an hour for paramedics to arrive. And in almost two dozen other cases, it took them more than an hour.

The union cites an example where an Edmonton man died when police had to take him to the hospital because there was no ambulance.


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Another case saw paramedics take 61 minutes to reach Buffalo Lake after an ATV rollover and the victim died at the scene.

Parker is calling on Alberta Health Services (AHS) to tell the full story of what is actually happening when people need an ambulance.

Parker has an upcoming meeting with the new health minister, Jason Copping.

He says this is the first time he’s been granted a meeting with the health minister since the start of the pandemic.