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Red Deer ambulances to stop transferring non-urgent patients, Red Deer city council hears

Red Deer city operated ambulances will taper off transferring non-emergency patient between hospitals starting this month.
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Red Deer city operated ambulances will taper off transferring non-emergency patient between hospitals starting this month.

Ken McMullen told Red Deer city council on Monday that Alberta Health Services plans to have the first NAT (non-emergency ambulatory transfers) vehicle operational in the city this week. The vehicles will be operated by AHS’s service partners.

All 10 of these NAT vehicles should be running in the region by mid-July, said McMullen.

AHS confirmed that some of these vehicles will look like regular ambulances or will be customized vans that are equipped following provincial Ground Ambulance Regulation guidelines.

The point is to remove the non-emergency workload from City of Red Deer operated ambulances and paramedics.

“It frees up Red Deer EMS because we’re not needing to do it,” added McMullen, who’s glad local paramedics will be able to focus solely on emergencies in future.

Red Deer Emergency Medical Services previously negotiated funds to operate three additional ambulances in its latest contract with AHS. This will bring the total ambulances in the city to eight, including the five already in use.

McMullen said the first additional ambulance was put into service in December and two more new ambulances are expected to be operational by mid-May.

With these additional ambulances and assistance from NAT vehicles, he told council Red Deerians will see a “vast improvement” in response times by local EMS.

AHS confirmed the rollout Thursday.

“This new service has been identified as a key priority to respond to the increasing volume of 911 calls and patient transfers that we’re experiencing,” said Scott Holsworth, Director of EMS Operations in the Central Zone of Alberta Health Services (AHS) in a press release.

“By adding resources dedicated to scheduled and predictable inpatient transfers, we can free up other ambulances to respond to emergencies in the communities where they’re needed.”

The additional ambulances will perform non-urgent, low-priority patient transfers, taking the pressure off local EMS crews. This will result in helping keep EMS resources in local communities. The new resources will also create capacity at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre by improving patient flow and ensuring patients receive the appropriate care in the appropriate space.

“This will benefit the many patients who require transport to and from the care of our specialized teams at the hospital,” says Janice Stewart, Chief Zone Officer for AHS Central Zone in a release.

“These resources also allow patients to return to their home communities sooner to heal closer to friends and family, while creating space for patients in need of higher-level care.”

Ambulances will be operational seven days a week on a staggered schedule to correspond to data-supported peak demand times.

According to an AHS release, service partners Medavie Health Services West and Associated Ambulance will provide the service, with ambulances stationed in Red Deer and serving all Central Zone.



Lana Michelin

About the Author: Lana Michelin

Lana Michelin has been a reporter for the Red Deer Advocate since moving to the city in 1991.
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