Paramedic logs from 2022 are highlighting some of the pressures Regina EMS workers have been facing for months including one instance where a patient died following offload delays at the hospital, the documents indicate.
An offload delay occurs when ambulance patients cannot be immediately transferred into a hospital bed and paramedics have to wait until the patient is admitted.
The documents were provided to CTV News from a source who filed a Freedom of Information request. They include daily logs written by paramedic supervisors from January to December 2022.
On Sept. 13, 2022, the log reads “coroner called looking for information from [offload delay] that went into cardiac arrest.”
In an emailed statement, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) said it “cannot comment on specific cases or individuals due to privacy legislation.”
Paul Merriman, Saskatchewan’s minister of health, said the ministry works with the coroners service during investigations of this nature.
“I’m not familiar with this specific incident and I couldn’t comment on this specific incident that the coroner is looking into, but we always make sure that we work well with the coroner and the SHA and all of our affiliates to implement any recommendations that come out of that office,” Merriman said.
The format of the paramedic supervisor logs changed in October to include more details. Paramedics who spoke with CTV News highlighted some instances that were the most concerning for them.
On Oct. 22, notes indicate there were no units available to go to a Seroquel overdose.
Oct. 27 showed calls waiting for more than five hours, meaning some people who called 911 had to wait that long to receive help.
On Oct. 29, notes state a patient with chest pain was held for 50 minutes and there were no transport units for an overdose patient, but a bystander administered NARCAN. The supervisor notes go on to say “we [have to] be able to dig our medics out of the hospital when required in a reasonable amount of time. I feel like a broken record.”
Nov. 1 saw offload delays of 10-plus hours. On this day, notes indicate there were no units available to respond to a cardiac arrest. There was also a medic assaulted that day.
On Nov. 9, it took 28 minutes for an ambulance to be dispatched to a call for a high priority pediatric seizure. Offload delays reached 10-plus hours and help was brought in from Carlyle EMS.
“We take all concerns from patients and their family members very seriously,” the statement from the SHA said.
“Anyone who has concerns over their care experience is encouraged to contact our quality of care coordinators. Through this patient-centered service, we can work with the patient and their family members through a respectful and confidential process to find out how we can help.”
In January, the Alberta government released an overview of two reports looking into the province’s troubled EMS system. A number of recommendations were made as a result of the reports.
Saskatchewan’s health minister said the government and the SHA are transparent with the public, noting Freedom of Information requests are always an option.
“We do report out lots of data to the public on various things within our healthcare system and we’ll continue to do that. I’m not familiar with the Alberta report, but I’ll certainly have a look at and if it’s something that we could be implementing in Saskatchewan, I’ll definitely talk to my officials and see about a process,” Merriman said.
The NDP’s health care critic said there should be more transparency, specifically around deaths.
“I do have concerns that it’s happened more broadly than this one situation and that’s not okay,” Vicki Mowat, NDP MLA, said.
According to the documents provided to CTV News, every day in November saw at least one ambulance dropped. On some days, there were four or five ambulances dropped.
In an interview with CTV News in November, the SHA’s south zone EMS director indicated that most days the ambulances are fully staffed. They are considered fully staffed with 11 ambulances during peak hours.
“Most days we are at 11,” director Glen Perchie said. “There are days when we are down a car, definitely.”
Paramedics who spoke with CTV News say ambulances are typically dropped because there aren’t enough employees working.
On Wednesday, the province announced 24.5 full-time equivalent paramedic positions in Regina. They will be implemented in the next three months.
The positions are expected to help staff two additional ambulances in the city, along with two smaller paramedic response units.
“This is the first step in being able to create some more efficiencies within our hospitals, certainly in Regina and in Saskatoon which have seen some pressures over the last few months,” Merriman said.
The NDP said any support is good news, but noted this is just the beginning until those positions are actually filled.
“We know that we need system wide reform but we also need to make sure that people are cared for when they’re in their most critical times. Part of that is making sure we have paramedics and ambulances on the road, and part of that is that the care is available when you get to the emergency rooms,” Mowat said.
The health minister said the province is hoping to fill the new positions with as many Saskatchewan students as possible.