Every day across the province, our EMS staff are faced with extremely difficult, often tragic, situations.
Whenever and wherever a 911 call is made, our EMS teams respond. Some of their call-outs can be unimaginable, and yet they are always there, doing all they can to help those in desperate need.
We are extremely proud of the work they do.
It is vitally important that we do all we can, as an organization, to help those who have dedicated their lives to helping others. Our Paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians deserve that.
AHS is committed to making sure all EMS staff have access to support whenever they need it. We already have some supports in place, and we are proud of the help those supports provide.
However, in recent weeks it has become clear that some EMS staff feel they need more help. Because of that, we have moved to ensure we have the right supports for staff going forward.
And, we have added flexibility to the supports we currently have in place, to enable us to act quickly when our teams – or colleagues – need help right away.
For example, following a recent tragedy in Edmonton that hit all of our EMS family particularly hard, we provided around-the-clock peer support, crisis support, chaplain services and grief counselling to help all staff.
And, a mobile mental health unit – comprised of a Critical Incident Stress Management representative and a mental health professional –was made available to provide face to face support to front line Edmonton EMS employees.
These resources can be called upon as required, wherever our staff may need support.
Staff continue to have a range of options available when they need help. We have urged all EMS staff to use these resources, and will continue to do so. Options include:
Employee and Family Assistance Program: The program provides a variety of free and confidential supports to all AHS employees and their immediate family members, including counselling.
Critical Incident Stress Management and Peer Support Program: CISM offers around the clock peer-to-peer debriefing and support for emergency responders, through a team of 50 volunteer EMS staff. New recruits also receive CISM/peer support training as part of their orientation.
Mental Health Help Line: The help line provides province-wide crisis support, information on mental health programs and services; and referral to other agencies where appropriate.
These services are available 24/7 and are completely confidential and voluntary to use.
In addition, in early February, Edmonton Zone EMS selected four frontline paramedics to review supports already in place, as well as engage with their EMS colleagues and listen to their concerns and suggestions.
They will then provide recommendations on employee mental health support options for the future, work that can be adapted provincially.
As well, Alberta’s Chief Paramedic – Darren Sandbeck - has established a provincial mental health advisory committee to develop new policies, and improve mental health programs, in order to better protect the health and safety of all EMS staff.
This work will incorporate the recommendations being provided by Edmonton frontline staff.
We understand the unique challenges our EMS colleagues face every day, often under very difficult circumstances, and we will do all we can to ensure they get the support they need and so deserve.