After an incident at a school in Regina on Tuesday, October 25th, an ambulance was called and the Sask. Health Authority (SHA) Medical Communication and Coordination Centre stated that no units were available to respond. At that time, the SHA stated to the press that Regina EMS was fully staffed at the time of the call.
That statement was incorrect. At the time of the incident, Regina EMS was down one ambulance due to not having enough paramedics on shift to operate it. This statement was corrected in an email later provided to Regina EMS staff, but at this time, it has not been made public.
Highlighting the ongoing issue of EMS understaffing in Saskatchewan, this photo of the call board shows that on Thursday, November 3rd, Regina EMS was short 8 staff, resulting in 4 out of the 11 units being out of service at different times throughout the day.
2 units were out of service from 06:30 to 18:30, 1 was out of service from 7:30-16:00, and 1 was out of service from 10:00 to 22:00.
Currently, there are 15 unfilled vacancies for Advanced Care Paramedics in Regina.
Rural services are also suffering. Many rural EMS services have to stand down because they don’t have the people on shift to staff their units. Due to this, patients will have to wait even longer for an ambulance from another community, and other rural services have to cover larger service areas to accommodate.
“Not enough is being done to recruit and retain paramedics in Saskatchewan. There are more vacancies now than there have been in over a decade. We’ve heard from many of our members that while they love their profession, the fatigue, stress and workload has become overwhelming, and there seems to be no end in sight,” says Health Sciences Association of Saskatchewan President Karen Wasylenko.
“Vacancies are going unfilled, ambulances are sitting without staff, and calls are going unanswered. It’s time to focus on EMS in this province and fix a system that is not working and hasn’t been for a long time. It’s a matter of public safety,” she states.
“There needs to be a plan to alleviate the pressures placed on the current staff and keep Saskatchewan’s paramedics in the province and in the profession. Retaining is just as important as recruiting,” she continues.
“We’re asking for honesty and transparency from the SHA to the public regarding staffing, workload, and working conditions for EMS. We want to work with the SHA to ensure that this province becomes a desirable place for EMS professionals to work and live and that the people of Saskatchewan have access to emergency services when they need them.”