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Alberta increases funding for medical first responders

The Government of Alberta announced two funding streams for Medical First Response (MFR) agencies throughout the province.

In total, $3.85 million will be distributed through the MFR Program to participating fire departments, urban, remote and rural municipalities and Indigenous communities.

Medical first responders provide care to patients or assist EMS crews as needed. The majority of MFR agencies partnered with Alberta Health Services are fire departments, and many of the responders are volunteers.

"Through these targeted investments, we hope to empower first responders and provide them with the resources they need to help them perform their life-saving work. The first part of the support will be made available through the training and equipment fund and building on the previous success of the medical First Response Program," health minister Adriana LaGrange said during a press event Wednesday

The training and equipment fund includes $1.35 million for essential equipment such as modern automated external defibrillators, trauma bags, CPR mannequins, instructor development and frontline response training courses. LaGrange also said the fund has also been expanded to include medium and large-sized agencies.

The remaining $2.5 million will go to a second stream dedicated to covering some of the costs incurred by fire departments and other agencies when they respond to medical emergencies. Expenses such as fuel and equipment, and those associated with increasing call volumes will be covered through this direct financial support program.

LaGrange said this funding is a recognition of the "unique challenges faced by rural and remote communities" and will ease the financial burden associated with delivering emergency services in these areas, ensuring equitable access to life-saving care for all Albertans no matter where they live in our province."

"This additional funding will help ensure our MFR partners are trained and equipped to provide patient care during 911 medical emergencies, increasing the quality of care for patients,” Murray Crawford, interim provincial director of AHS, said in a news release.

Marty Scott, executive director of EMS Provincial Programs at AHS, said there are approximately 318 MFR agencies already working with AHS EMS. Around 200 of these agencies will have access to one or both of the funding streams.

The Town of Gibbons Fire Chief Eric Lowe said the local fire department has been involved in medical response since 2016, and this program "enhances the medical services not only for the residents of Gibbons, but all Albertans."

"Having first responders showing up when the ambulance partners are en route or need that extra set of hands to assist them is an asset that we all really appreciate. The increased funding will help us train more firefighters and medical responders, enabling us to have a larger amount of skilled members to better assist with not only medical first response but all responses requiring medical assistance."

Brett McKay, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Albert Gazette