It was a another record year of ambulance calls in 2022 for Medavie Health Services West.
Medavie, which serves Saskatoon and surrounding communities, had 40,408 EMS responses last year.
That's up from 39,836 in 2021 and 33,141 in 2020.
Of last year's calls, 1,913 were for children 12 and under, almost 50 per cent higher than the 1,309 calls for kids that age in 2021.
Medavie spokesperson Troy Davies called the increase "alarming."
"There was really nothing that was red flagging that we could say it's because of this," Davies said.
"It was just a lot more sick kids that we've seen … and it's not just in Saskatoon, it's the province when we bring them here to Saskatoon to the children's hospital."
Davies said every year Medavie transports 150 to 200 children from centres across Northern Saskatchewan to Saskatoon.
A surge of respiratory illnesses has been sending children to hospital across Canada. Dr. Anna Banerji, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine and Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, said RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) is surging, especially among vulnerable infants in remote Indigenous and Inuit communities.
Banerji told CBC's Saskatoon Morning that in severe cases of RSV, infants need to be hospitalized and given oxygen.
"Wash your hands before you touch a young infant, and this year I would suggest wearing a mask," Banerji said.
Medavie paramedics also administered a record 651 doses of Narcan last year. That's up from 604 in 2021.
Davies said that number would have been higher if not for a pilot project that saw paramedics give out about 40 Narcan kits a month to patients.
"Even though we did have an additional 50 patients getting Narcan this year, I think that number could have been close to 800 to be honest," he said.
"That was probably the one of the biggest initiatives that we took in the last year that's really been effective for us."
Other initiatives included a Community Paramedicine Program in partnership with the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) that saw paramedics responding to long-term care patients, and patients in their homes that required IV therapy, antibiotics or wellness checks.
Davies said Medavie treated almost 2,000 patients in their homes who otherwise would have been transported by ambulance to the ER if not for this program.
In a statement to CBC, the SHA said there are 44 ground ambulance services doing community paramedic (CP) work to support and enhance available services.
"In 2022, approximately 13,000 CP care events were completed across the province. This total includes 2,190 CP care events in Saskatoon," the SHA statement said.
While not all calls would have resulted in a trip to the ER, the SHA said, "in most cases the program does help to divert patients from entering a facility for emergency care at the time of call, as well as support wellness checks for those discharged from hospital and supporting their needs in the home."
Paramedics have also been working with the Saskatoon Tribal Council at its new shelter.