Thursday, November 29th, the Alberta Paramedic Association released part one of an impact study investigating the effect of extended on-call shifts on the health and wellness of the paramedic.
During that research, there were major risks to the public identified. Public protection is the role of the Alberta college of paramedics, therefore we have provided the college with the public risk information and we are now actively lobbying them with a call to action to intervene on this dangerous model of delivering EMS in Alberta. Health Minister, Hon Sarah Hoffman has been made aware of the results of our findings and the risk to paramedic health and wellness, our patients and the public.
This project reinforces the need for a strong professional association advocating for paramedics and a regulatory college focused on public protection.
The Alberta Paramedic Association has been engaged in a collaborative review as part of our Professional Fatigue project, to assess the health and wellness effects of the 24 hour shift model currently being used in rural Alberta’s EMS delivery.
During this assessment which included current legislation, frontline consultation and research/literature review. Over the next few weeks, our members will be able to follow this project as we lobby for change and release more information by checking back here in the news feed frequently.
Here is an overview of some of the findings.
Legislation and Consultation
Shifts exist in rural Alberta using 24 hour, 48 hour and 96 hour scheduling in different variations that do not involve scheduled breaks.
There are -/+ 192 ambulances in Alberta using a variation of 24, 48 and 96 hour scheduling.
The Traffic Safety Act regarding hours of service regulation explicitly excludes Paramedics operating an ambulance.
Neither the Health Professions Act, Emergency Health Services Act, Commercial Vehicle Drivers legislation, nor the Occupational Health and Safety Act addresses limiting hours of work or ambulance operation.
“Recent changes to employment standards legislation did not amend or make changes to the standards for ambulance attendants.” Hon Christina Grey, Labour Minister
Paramedic Health and Safety Risk
Humans require 6-8 hours of uninterrupted rest in a 24 hour period to mitigate sleep starvation and sleep deprivation
With no rest periods scheduled, aforementioned paramedics are at risk of sleep starvation and sleep deprivation
Sleep starvation increases the risk of cancer, dementia, depression and PTSD
Sleep starvation exacerbates sleep pathology by increasing the length and pathophysiology of sleep apnea
Frontline paramedics are currently reporting using sick time to “catch up” on sleep.
Paramedics lacking scheduled breaks for extended periods have no access to personal psychological supports
Cognitive performance after 18 hours of wakefulness mimics blood alcohol levels of 0.10
Eye-hand coordination at 8 AM after being awake all night has been correlated with a blood alcohol level of 0.10
Kelly Johnston, Senior Communications Specialist Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary 2500 University Dr. NW Calgary, AB T2N 1N4
Re: Stroke Poster
Dear Kelly Johnston:
We have a few concerns and a lot of excitement regarding poster in the Calgary Airport featuring a program that, we understand, includes your involvement. The “How do we increase the chances of walking away from a stroke?” poster outlines a significant study that would be of great value to our profession.
The Alberta Paramedic Association (APA), is a representative society working throughout this province in an organized and strategic manner to enhance the skills, knowledge and wellness of the practitioners while promoting an understanding of the profession to the public.
With consideration to the advocacy aspect of our role, we were greatly disappointed to have our profession relegated to being “ambulance drivers” on the University of Calgary poster. Each member of our profession has worked hard to develop an expertise and skill set dedicated to the healthcare profession. In addition, they make extended daily sacrifices– time away from their families and impacts on their lifestyles – to perform this essential work on extreme schedules. To imply the entire skillset is based on “driving” is extremely derogatory and diminishes the profession. We would be more than happy to publicize an apology to those in the profession regarding this misnomer, as the poster has recently been published on Facebook and significant displeasure is being generated.
Despite, the downgrading of our profession within the study information, it is recognized the value results of such learnings can have across the health industry in the province. Having identified the role of paramedics within the prognosis of those who suffer a stroke demonstrates a potential change or improvement in our practice. In the future, the Association would be supportive of working with organizers of such academic initiatives where it has implications on the paramedic profession. Be it for language verification or support of research criteria.
While we appreciate the intent of the poster and the study, it was a significant misstep to refer to those in the paramedic profession as “ambulance drivers” and we hope you will see the benefit of respecting the profession with a removal of the poster and a public apology.
If we as an Association can be of assistance in this or other matters related to our profession, we hope you will reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or 780-904-3619 and perhaps, such inadvertent misunderstandings can be avoided in the future.
The Hon. Sarah Hoffman, Deputy Premier, Minister of Health Government of Alberta 423 Legislature Building 10800 – 97 Avenue Edmonton, AB T5K 2B6
Re: Professional Liability Insurance
Dear Minister Hoffman:
The Alberta Paramedic Association (the Association) is a non-profit volunteer organization. The directive of the Association is to establish a representative society to serve as a voice for Emergency Health Services Practitioners (Paramedics) within their professional practice.
With this in mind, we want to inform you that the Association has recently introduced professional liability insurance (PLI) as part of the services we provide. This benefit is included within the Association’s $75-dollar annual membership fee. To date, Paramedics have had limited choices when obtaining financially feasible insurance. With the introduction of this benefit into the system, Paramedics now have a choice in accessing high quality liability insurance.
The PLI offered through PROLINK Insurance Group Inc. meets and in some areas exceeds all insurance requirements set forth by the Alberta College of Paramedics.
As a representative organization, improvements that benefit Paramedics supports the mandate of the Association in enhancing knowledge, skills and health and wellness.
If you would like to discuss this matter further, or any other aspects of the Association, please contact me at email@example.com or 780-904-3619.
Thank you for your time.
Dusty Myshrall, ACP, Flight Paramedic President Alberta Paramedic Association