EDMONTON — Alberta's Opposition says new data shows health care is in crisis because of long wait times.
The Alberta Health Services Emergency Medical Services quarterly dashboard from early April shows ambulance response times in urban areas progressively worsened in the past year.
"We've seen more and more indications that our entire health-care system is under extreme stress due to the mismanagement by the UCP," NDP Leader Rachel Notley said Wednesday during a news conference.
In the past week, there have been reports of ambulances lined up outside hospitals, surgeries diverted and long wait times at children's hospitals in Calgary and Edmonton.
"As a parent, it's painful to see families put through this stress on top of caring for a sick child," Notley said.
"These are all symptoms of a health-care system that is itself very sick and in a deep crisis."
One of the most visible symptoms, she said, is the effect on ambulance service and staff.
"They tell me they are worked to exhaustion. They are burned out."
Mike Parker, a paramedic who is the president of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta, said staff are burning out and ending their careers early.
"The first step is to ensure that our front-line workers … stay," he said.
Parker said more workers are needed, something which could be solved immediately by making casual paramedics full time.
Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, filling in for Health Minster Jason Copping in the legislature, said Alberta’s challenges resemble those across Canada. The government is investing more money to expand capacity and improve wait times, she said.
"Every province is seeing this kind of pressure. It’s normal after two years of a pandemic," said LaGrange.
"(Alberta Health Services) has 230 more paramedics working today than they did two years ago, and Budget 2022 has increased an additional $64 million to help ease system pressures and make sure (paramedics) are more responsive to their communities.”
Notley replied: “Those new positions are casual, not full time — a big difference — and (LaGrange) should know it.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 11, 2022.
— By Colette Derworiz in Calgary. With files from Dean Bennett
The Canadian Press