For Immediate Release:

Friday, March 21, 2014

NAPE Says Code Red Alert Increases Due to Shortage of Ambulances and Paramedic Staff

ST. JOHN’S, NL –The Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE) is calling on the Minister of Health and the CEO of Eastern Health to take action to address the critical shortage of on-duty ambulances and paramedic staff at the Health Sciences Centre (HSC).

According to NAPE President Carol Furlong, “Red Alert is the term used when there are no ambulances available to respond to calls. In the past year there were an alarming 462 Red Alert incidents in the area serviced by the Health Sciences Metro Ambulance Service. In other words, there were 462 times in the past year when an ambulance was not immediately available to respond to a call. Wait times varied from minutes to hours in extreme cases.

“Paramedics have expressed concerns to their Union that they may not be able to respond when needed in emergency situations,” said Furlong. “They have informed their Union that the current situation is untenable and could lead to not only delayed response times to calls but a further increase in Red Alerts.”

For the fiscal year 2008-2009 there were a total of 18,524 calls dispatched, 70.6% of which were classed as emergency calls. The fiscal year 2012-2013 saw that number increase to 22,573 calls dispatched with 74.7% classed as emergency calls. Indicators to-date show that this current period will surpass even that. No additional ambulances on-duty are being added so Code Red Alerts are expected to increase as well.

Furlong stated, “Red Alerts of this level are not acceptable within industry guidelines. One would think that the only acceptable level of ambulance unavailability is zero. Immediate resources are needed to address the urgent situation in the form of additional units on the road. At a minimum, two additional units need to be put into service on a 24/7 basis. In 2011, when Red Alerts increased, extra ambulances were deployed and the Red Alerts decreased as a result. Now that Red Alerts are increasing again it stands to reason that adding ambulances on-duty will address the problem.”

The primary base for the ambulance service is the Health Sciences Centre. The ambulance service covers almost a quarter of the population of the province. The area covered by the Health Science Centre’s ambulance service stretches from Pouch Cove to Witless bay to Topsail Hill and all points in between. In addition, due to the provision of advanced life support by Advanced Care Paramedics at the HSC, ambulances in this area are often dispatched to intercept other ambulances approaching St. John’s from other areas.

“The unacceptable level of Red Alert incidents has to be addressed right away by increasing paramedic staff and on-duty ambulances,” stated Furlong.

Background Information

The Health Sciences currently has a fleet of eight ambulance units and six spares which are used when the regular units are out of commission or in the garage for maintenance.  

Current schedule of ambulance availability:

Weekdays:    8 a.m. to 4 p.m. – 8 ambulances

4 p.m. to 8 p.m. – 7 ambulances

8 p.m. to 8 a.m. – 5 ambulances 

Weekends:    9 a.m. to 9 p.m. – 6 ambulances

9 p.m. to 8 a.m. – 5 ambulances

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For further information please contact:

Keith Dunne, NAPE Campaigns and Communications Coordinator

(phone)          709.570.2501           

(cell)               709.631.9737