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Commentary: Emergency medical service crisis impacts all

Anyone care to predict that the EMS crisis will not be a 2023 campaign issue?

The ongoing crisis in the province’s emergency medical services (EMS) system may be the most important issue facing Alberta communities today, one year out from the May 2023 provincial election.

While politics, cost-of-living, and education are also key concerns right now, the care of ill and injured Albertans facing an emergency system burdened by long wait times and severely strained medical personnel is nothing less than a matter of life and death.

During a press conference last week, Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping acknowledged that the EMS system is under intense pressure.

“Emergency departments and EMS are under real strain,” said Copping. “We understand that a number of hospitals, particularly emergency departments, are under strain right now.”

The UCP government is well aware of the problems and has plans to set things right, he said.

“We need to add capacity so the system it is not under so much strain,” he said. “We are adding capacity across our entire health system, from EMS right through to continuing care.”

For his part, NDP Health critic David Shepherd says the EMS situation under the UCP is a disaster. He cited events at the Red Deer Regional Hospital last week as an indication of how bad things have become. 

On April 25, more than dozen ambulances were lined up outside the emergency room, forced to wait to off-load their sick and injured patients, he said.

“I can’t imagine how the patient and EMS crew in that 14th ambulance must have felt as they sat queued up behind 13 others, waiting to get to the emergency room,” said Shepherd. “The UCP’s damage to care is so severe that instead of accessing a hospital, patients are being cared for in a parking lot.

“The UCP’s hostility is driving health care workers out of the province, leading to long ambulance wait times and parking lot medicine.”

Anyone care to predict that the EMS crisis will not be 2023 campaign issue?

Dan Singleton is an editor with the Albertan.

Dan Singleton

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