Increase in calls from rural communities, and increased demand for inter-facility transfers among reasons Prince Albert paramedics travelling further than 2021

Herald file photo. A Parkland Ambulance Care Ltd. paramedic returns to base after dropping a patient off at Victoria Hospital.

Ambulance services across Saskatchewan saw an increase in the number of kilometres travelled this year and Parkland Ambulance in Prince Albert is no different.

From Jan. 1 to Dec. 19, 2022, Parkland Ambulance paramedics have travelled 759,367 km, a more than 100,000 km increase from the 629,038 km travelled in all of 2021.

Lyle Karasiuk Director of Public Affairs for Parkland Ambulance said an increase in calls from rural communities, and an increase in inter-facility transfers were the primary reason paramedics put on more miles.

“We are busier than we were even last year,” Karasiuk said. “Our call volume continues to see an increase and so as we increase volumes. Some of those increase in volumes is more inter-facility transfers.

“We are traveling more to our rural locations, maybe out to Candle Lake or maybe out in the Canwood area or maybe up into the National Park, so we are seeing more rural responses. That’s number one.”

Karasiuk said the number of inter-facility transfers has also increased since COVID-19 safety protocols were lifted. Healthcare workers are starting to move patients around more often, whereas during COVID there were strict guidelines over where and when they could be transferred.

“Sometimes a service and their care needs are not available in Prince Albert,” Karasiuk explained. “It’s maybe available in Saskatoon or it might be available in another community as our SHA partners work to find the best locations and the best physician to care for that patients need.

“Sometimes it’s not necessarily where we want it to be, which is at home, so just as we move people more and more around we are busier. That’s probably the best combination to increase our 2022.”

The increase in mileage has led to increased wear and tear on the organization’s ambulances.

“Those costs increase on the back end as well for us no different than anybody,” Karasiuk said.

Provincially, according to the Paramedic Service Chiefs of Saskatchewan, ambulance services travelled 11 million kilometres per year, and roughly 30,000 kilometres per day. There has been over 113,000 patients transported so far this year in the province.

Karasiuk said he expects to see the increased travel trend continue since even before the COVID-19 pandemic, call levels were on an upward trajectory.

“This is not a result of COVID,” he explained. “Fhere is a whole bunch of factors that have increased EMS or our paramedics call volume. I don’t see us ever returning to less work than we do, I think it is just the new normal for us we just continue to become a busier centre of excellence and as more and more of our people move out into the rural area and sometimes they have incidences that require our services.”

Karasiuk sees patient care evolving, but said it’s difficult to say how. He said Parkland does not have a crystal ball, but wished they did so they could properly prepare for any changes.

“We are continually evolving and I think, as paramedics and as ground EMS provincially, we are probably in a good position to evolve and respond to the needs of the people that we serve and work with our healthcare partners in the SHA to deliver that great service that we have been known to do,” he said.