Province-wide Ambulance Red Alert Data Troubling, Inconsistent, and Incomplete

For Immediate Release:

Monday, August 19, 2019

ST. JOHN’S, NL – Records released to the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE) under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (ATIPPA) reveal a number of concerning issues related to Red Alerts – the term used when there are no ambulances available to respond to calls – at the various Regional Health Authorities.

“We are very concerned about the information, data, and records released to NAPE from the Central, Western, and Labrador Grenfell Health Authorities regarding ambulance Red Alerts,” said NAPE President Jerry Earle. “In some cases, it was the frequency and duration of red alerts, particularly as it relates to Labrador Grenfell Health, but, almost as troubling is the incomplete and inconsistent way in which Western and Central health are tracking this vital data. It is very clear that each of the four health authorities are tracking ambulance red alerts in very different ways.”

As a follow up to an earlier ATIPPA request to Eastern Health on the subject of Red Alerts, NAPE filed similar requests to the other Regional Health Authorities. What came back was a mixed bag.

Central Health does not appear to track red alert data in any meaningful way for the public or private operators due to privacy, contract, or government regulations. Western Health also does not track Red Alerts in the comprehensive way that Eastern Health does. Western Health tracks “chute time” which essentially is the time from a call to an ambulance hitting the road. Western Health does not track Red Alert status, frequency, or duration for the various contracted ambulance service providers.

“We firmly believe that the regional health authorities should be tracking red alert data in a consistent and uniform manner across the board,” said Earle. “The Health Authorities must do a better job tracking this information for the various private service contractor providers to ensure they are meeting the needs of the health care system and the people of the province and to ensure that the paramedics for those companies are getting the support and resources they require to do their jobs right.”

Labrador Grenfell Health only began monitoring Red Alerts in May of 2018. The information provided to NAPE regarding Red Alerts for parts of that region of the province was deeply concerning. While the red alert situation for the first six months of 2019 at the HVGB Health Center and Labrador West appears to be under control, the

same could not be said for the Charles Curtis Memorial Hospital, Sheshatshui/North West River, Strait of Belle Isle Health Center, White Bay Health Centre.

From January 1 to June 30, 2019, the following red alert data was collected for these facilities/service areas:

Facility/Area Red Alerts Total Red Alert Minutes
Charles Curtis Memorial Hospital 66 (65 emergencies) 5030 (83 hours)
Sheshatshui/North West River 84 (83 emergencies) 1086 (18 hours)
Strait of Belle Isle Health Center 182 (177 emergencies) 9792 (163 hours)
White Bay Health Centre 122 (120 emergencies) 12589 (210 hours)


“These figures are extremely troubling. Clearly, there are issues on the Northern Peninsula and in Labrador that need to be addressed. Our members are telling us that many of the issues there are due to inadequate staffing levels and problems with recruitment and retention. We understand that rural and remote areas are difficult to service, but surely there are ways to help lessen this gap,” said Earle. “The Health Authority must consult with front line workers to address these issues immediately.”

“The data showed that there were numerous red alerts in these areas in excess of one hour, with many reaching two hours and at least one that was over 5 hours long with an emergency call(s) waiting.”

“The people of this province deserve better,” said Earle. “We can do better with the proper resources, information, teamwork, and gameplan – but we need the health authorities and the government to commit to making this goal a reality.”

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For further information, please contact:

Keith Dunne, NAPE Campaigns and Communications Coordinator

(cell) 709.631.9737     (email)