The newest EMS report by EMS Associate Executive Director Tony Pasich was presented to Town Council yesterday. He said recent changes to how they operate have improved ambulance response times in Strathmore, as his most recent data for March said their 90th percentile response time for D&E calls was 12 minutes and 4 seconds. D&E calls refer to what can be considered a "life or limb" situation. The goal is to stay within a 15-minute response and possibly get down to 10 minutes, so the early results are promising.
The big change Pasich continually cited as helping improve EMS as a whole was setting a 45-minute offload target goal, meaning ambulances would drop their patients off and be ready to respond to another call in 45 minutes.
"Prior to the launch of 45 minutes we would be there for 3 hours and 20 minutes (offloading a patient). We are not at our target, but we're at about an hour 10-20 minutes. We still have a way to go there, but when you look at the difference between an hour and 10 minutes to 3 hours and 20 minutes, it's massive."
The immediate benefits of this were clear, as Pasich said the number of ambulances available has increased dramatically. In the first week of the implementation of the 45-minute target goal there were 10 minutes of "code red" where no ambulances were available. Pasich compared this to previous situations where they would potentially have no ambulances available for several hours in just one day.
Calgary EMS was another big topic, as Pasich explained Strathmore and surrounding rural areas often had to send their resources to respond to Calgary calls, so addressing Calgary shortages would in turn positively impact communities like Strathmore. He said the goal in Calgary is to have 13 ambulances available as frequently as possible, thus lowering how often Strathmore ambulances would have to go to Calgary.
"Prior to that (45-minute) launch we would be at about 3-4% of the day, and now we're at 60-70% of the time we have greater than 13 trucks in Calgary. You combine that with greater than 8 and that's about 90-92% of the time that we have greater than 8 trucks in Calgary, so it's been a huge difference."
Councilor Debbie Mitzner is happy to see positive steps being taken and hopes more is done to continue improving Strathmore's situation, as she explained in August her 83-year-old mother had to wait four hours for an ambulance because Strathmore's ambulances were responding to situations in Vulcan, Acme, and Calgary. Mitzner asked if Strathmore would keep an ambulance "back at all times for our own people" to prevent a situation like this from happening again.
"If there was a call in Acme and we were down to our last ambulance, would you go to Acme or would you stay here for our people?" Mitzner asked.
"We have a borderless system, so we will send the closest ambulance for an event. So, if that is the closest ambulance then we would send the Strathmore unit there. That's what we have to continue to work on, is making sure we're resourcing all of our corridors and all of our communities so that there is resources in community to respond," Pasich answered.
As for the numbers, Strathmore ambulances have served Strathmore considerably more this fiscal year than last. In the 2021-2022 fiscal year Strathmore ambulances served Calgary for 44% of their events, followed by Strathmore at 36%. In the 2022-2023 fiscal year Strathmore sits at 47%, with the second closest being Calgary at 17%.
"In the last 5-6 weeks we actually haven't responded at all in Calgary." Pasich said.
The total call volume in Strathmore for the fiscal years were similar, with 2601 calls this year compared to 2426 last year.
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