Recruiting and retaining employees are two of the biggest challenges facing EMS in northern Alberta. Associate Executive Director for Alberta Health Services EMS North Zone Rob Barone says like many industries, they have a hard time getting people to move to rural locations.
“It’s at the higher practitioner level of the advanced care paramedic where we really struggle. We are successful in filling all of our vacancies in the City of Grande Prairie, but it’s not without a great deal of effort on our part to get them here.”
While Grande Prairie has enough paramedics, there are more difficulties in places like High Prairie and Valleyview, where new hires often move on to other places quickly. Barone says the shortage of advanced care paramedics has continually grown over the part seven or eight years in all types of communities, and AHS is looking outside of the province for a solution.
“We’re looking at our internal provincial hiring strategies, in terms of advanced care paramedic ratios,” he explains. “We’re working with the Alberta College of Paramedics and the mobility legislation to see how effective it would be to bring paramedics in from other colleges and get them licensed with our college of paramedics.”
Barone was also part of bringing the Advanced Care Paramedic program to Northern Lakes College out of Slave Lake, which will graduate its first class this summer. It’s hoped many of the graduates stay in northern Alberta to work.
Looking even further away, the province has been working with Charles Sturt University of Australia, and the first Australian paramedic was hired in Peace River a few months ago. Grande Prairie EMS responds to roughly 11,000 requests a year, including 9-1-1 emergencies and patient transfers.