Immediate Action Must Be Taken to Address and Reduce Ambulance ‘Red Alerts’

For Immediate Release:

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

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 current and ongoing issues relating to a concerning level of Red Alerts in the St. John’s Metro region.

A Red Alert is the term used when there are no ambulances available to respond to calls. A Level 1 Red Alert occurs when an ambulance is not available and a call comes in during that period. A Level 2 Red Alert occurs when an ambulance is not available and no calls come in during that time. Emergency calls are prioritized during a red alert and some routine calls may be delayed until an ambulance becomes available.

“According to information in our possession, there were an alarming 372 Red Alert incidents in the area serviced by the Health Sciences Metro Ambulance Service in 2016 alone. In other words, there were 372 times in the past year when an ambulance was not immediately available to respond to a call,” said NAPE President Jerry Earle. “Of those 372 Red Alerts, 196 were Level 1 for a combined 4303 minutes, which is approximately 71 hours. 96 of those Level 1 calls were emergency calls. In total, there were 124.5 hours of Red Alerts in 2016 – roughly 5 days total.”

“While there has been a reduction since 2015 in the number of Red Alerts, our members and our union are still concerned about where we stand on this critical matter,” said Earle. “This is a service where every second counts. Every Red Alert is a situation that could mean life or death. The goal must be zero Red Alerts. The government and Eastern Health have to provide the resources available to allow our members to make that goal a reality.”

In 2015, the provincial government and Eastern Health released the results of an external review by Pomax Consulting Inc.  (Hereafter: Pomax Report). The Pomax Report was a comprehensive review of Eastern Health’s paramedicine services. The Report made a number of key recommendations and timelines for implementation that would improve paramedicine and medical transport issues, including reducing Red Alerts.

“Some of the recommendations in the Pomax Report were acted on and implemented right away. However, to the best of our knowledge, many of the recommendations have not been implemented or provided funding since,” said Earle. “So while we have seen some level of improvement since the release of the Pomax report, we are very concerned that the government and Eastern Health are not following through on their commitments in 2016 and 2017. We are fearful that this may lead to a degradation of service, including increases in Red Alerts going forward.”

“The number of Red Alert incidents must be addressed immediately,” stated Earle. “Anything short of that would be unacceptable.”

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For further information, please contact:

Keith Dunne, NAPE Campaigns and Communications Coordinator

(phone) 709.570.2501              (cell) 709.631.9737    (email)