New service frees up ambulances for major emergencies

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Alberta Health Services (AHS) is adding new resources in the Central zone to help free up ambulances to respond to emergencies.

AHS has signed an agreement with Associated Ambulance to provide non-ambulance transport (NAT) service, which began Jan. 4.

Two wheelchair-equipped vans and one stretcher-capable multi-patient vehicle based in Sylvan Lake are expected to move nearly 1,400 patients to facilities within 100 kilometres of Red Deer during the first year of operation.

“Basic patient transfers do not always require the skills of highly-trained paramedics,” says EMS senior program director and chief paramedic Darren Sandbeck.

“While some patients do require advanced care during travel, stable patients can be safely moved by non-ambulance transport vehicles, which frees up other ambulances to respond to emergencies.”

In 2015, NAT resources transported more than 12,500 patients in the North, Edmonton, Calgary and South zones of AHS, helping to keep EMS ambulances available for urgent and emergency responses.

AHS currently contracts Associated Ambulance to operate 37 ambulances in 17 communities in the North and Central zones.

The company was awarded the additional $695,000 contract following a request for expression of interest and qualifications issued in February 2015.

Sandbeck says the new resources support AHS’s commitment to ensuring patients get the right kind of care, when and where they need it.

“These new resources will improve our ability to support stable patients while keeping more ambulances available in communities to provide advanced emergency services that only they can provide,” he says.

Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Nathan Cooper applauds the government’s announcement.

“I have always said when the government is on the right track I’ll be happy to commend them for it. This is an example of that,” he said during an interview with the Albertan.

“It’s something that the Wildrose (Party) has been advocating for for long periods of time; addressing the significant challenges that rural and Central Alberta faces and one of those solutions has been patient transfer units, so I’m pleased to see the government taking a step in the right direction.”

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The Olds Albertan has been the source for news and community information in Olds and area since 1993.