Alberta's EMS Advisory Committee is expected to submit its final report at the end of August, after receiving a one-month extension from Alberta Health minister Jason Copping.
Highwood MLA RJ Sigurdson co-chairs the committee along with Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard and says they require a bit more time.
"The committee was to be done its work and for a report to be filed by July 31. Now, based on the number of recommendations and, I would say, the quality of the recommendations that were coming forward, we, both co-chairs, approached the minister to sit down and explain to him that this is how many great recommendations are coming forward... I don't want to delay it any further than that, we do want to get this final report out and we do want to address all the quick implementation items that we can right now."
He's pretty pleased with the progress they've been making thus far, with some pilots already underway.
"We have almost 60 recommendations right now that are moving forward for pilot. I think they strike that balance of addressing a lot of the system issues and complaints we've heard in the past. I've always said it's that diverse makeup of the committee which has representatives from our urban municipalities, rural municipalities, Metis First Nations, firefighters, paramedics, that's really what's driving a lot of these recommendations we're moving forward with. Of these recommendations, we've already implemented pilots on 10 and we're starting to see incredible results that are having an impact on our rural communities."
EMS workers and patients have been sharing stories of their personal experiences with Alberta's EMS issues, which include frequent code reds, where no local ambulances are available in a certain area, and thus responders have to be pulled from other communities.
This can often lead to long response times, with recent Facebook and Reddit posts recalling wait times of around 50 minutes for emergencies in Okotoks, and ambulances responding from Cochrane and Didsbury.
Part of the committee's work, says Sigurdson, has involved speaking with nearly 1,600 frontline workers, some of whom have responded positively to recent changes.
"Just a couple of weeks ago I had a chance to speak to a paramedic on an ambulance here in town, and he was very supportive of the change that our ambulances here in this community don't get pulled into Calgary on low acuity calls and he said it's incredible how much more time ambulances are then available here int he community, which means they can respond quicker and faster."
The work being done by the committee is protected by a non-disclosure agreement, though a summary or even excerpts from the report are likely to be made public once it's submitted.
Sigurdson can speak broadly about the recommendations, which he describes as including short, medium, and long-term goals, all of which will be required to properly address such a broad provincial system.
He also confirmed they're looking at specific issues that have been widely reported.
"The hallway wait times that are so often spoken about, finding ways to be able to transfer patients into our emergency rooms quicker and faster including recommendations of giving more ability for paramedics in the cars on a response to be able to assess the needs of a patient and find alternate areas to be able to get them are faster, like here in Okotoks, transporting them over to the urgent care."
He continues, "One of the key components is building our capital of manpower in the pre-hospital space and finding ways to be able to explain to people the benefits of a career in pre-hospital care and becoming a paramedic. We get more employees, and that means we have more support to make sure we can staff the cars we have and additional cars we're trying to put on the road. We have now five additional for Calgary, five for Edmonton, and one for Lethbridge."
The formation of the committee was announced at the beginning of 2022, to come up with recommendations to address Alberta's issues with EMS, namely response times.