Saskatoon paramedics were left running off their feet Tuesday after call volumes went through the roof. Responders with MD Ambulance required back-up and attended over 100 calls in a 24-hour period.
On Wednesday, call volumes were steady but paramedics were finally breathing a sigh of relief after running ragged the day before.
“It felt like the wheels fell off the bus,” Gerry Schriemer, chief of EMS for MD Ambulance, said.
“The call volume we did by 2:30 was about 60 to 65 calls, that’s a normally crazy day in 12 hours.”
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Let alone in a seven-and-half hour time frame and the calls kept coming in, said Schriemer.
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“By the time 24 hours rolled around we hit the 100 mark and it stayed busy right up until midnight, one o’clock and then it started to slow down.”
The last lateral transfer from one facility to another by paramedics was at 4 a.m. CT on Wednesday.
According to Schriemer, response times to the most dire of situations were done in timely fashion but as less severe cases stacked up, so did the need for back-up.
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Rural centres chipped in where they could and MD Ambulance utilized the fire department to respond to calls they usually wouldn’t attend.
“On top of that we had our normal capacity of 12 ambulances on street, two supervisors in rovers, we brought back crews to staff ambulances so at the peak we were running 15.”
Local emergency departments managed the volumes just fine but were in constant communication with first responders.
“As an emergency department we work very closely with our EMS partners to ensure we’re freeing up EMS units to get out and get to those next calls,” Graham Blue, director of emergency services for the Saskatoon Health Region, said.
According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information in 2014, 80 per cent of Saskatoon’s population had a regular doctor they went to.
At times, Schriemer said a non-emergency can feel like a true emergency to a person and without placing blame on anyone told Global News that of all the calls taken on Tuesday – 40 per cent of those calls were categorized to be lower acuity and could have been handled in another manner.
“The ER triage patients as we triage patients so if you come in by ambulance but if you’re low acuity, you’re going to be waiting.”
“Whether you wait three or four hours in the ER or three to four hours in a clinic, if you have that ability and it’s not a serious situation don’t tie up the ERs, go the clinic that’s available to you in your community.”
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According to Blue, of 42 multi-physician clinics surveyed in the region, 80 per cent said they would have a doctor on-call during the holidays.
“With a family physician, they know the whole every complexity that a patient may or may not have. When you’re coming in to see an emergency physician we just get a snapshot of last three hours for that person or family so a family physician really knows the whole care needs of that person.”