MEDICINE HAT, AB – The Alberta Government is now allowing paramedics to transport patients in ambulances to alternative facilities, not just the hospital.
By the end of the year, patients will be able to go to ten facilities across the province, including St. Michael’s Health Centre in Lethbridge, St. Joseph’s in Medicine Hat, the Magrath Health Centre and the Piyami Health Centre in Picture Butte.
Until now, paramedics weren’t allowed to take patients to those kinds of facilities, which are equipped to help with urgent but non-life threatening situations.
“For a number of years now, we’ve had a recurring problem with paramedics lining up at emergency departments waiting to transfer care,” said Health Minister Tyler Shandro at an announcement in Medicine Hat on Tuesday (July 6). “It’s not the right use of their skills, and it’s not the best care for the patient. Some patients can and should be able to go somewhere else.”
Shandro adds that this is just the first phase of an ongoing effort to streamline emergency services. Over the next few years, the provincial government plans to open up ambulance transportation to primary care providers and other non-urgent medical facilities, as well.
He stresses that the ultimate goal is better patient care, reducing delays for paramedics and reducing the burden on emergency departments.
Between 2017 and 2019, the province says there were about 90,000 non-urgent calls where patients could have been taken to alternative care facilities.