Extreme heat leads to extreme demand for EMS in Edmonton, Calgary

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Alberta Health Services is warning of extremely high demand for emergency medical services in Edmonton and Calgary in recent days, much of it driven by extreme temperatures.

In a statement, spokeswoman Jennifer Vanderlaan said the call volume is due to several factors, including an increase in heat-related calls, emergencies related to people participating in outdoor activities, and drug and alcohol-related calls.

“Since Tuesday morning, EMS has responded to 125 heat-related calls in Edmonton, and 73 heat-related calls in Calgary,” she said.

On July 1 alone, there were 28 heat-related calls in Edmonton, and 28 in Calgary. Though temperatures moderated somewhat on Saturday, “crews continue to be busy,” Vanderlaan said.

“For context, EMS in Edmonton and Calgary responded to seven heat-related calls last Friday, combined,” she said.

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Despite the high demand, Vanderlaan said anyone who needs EMS care will receive it. The most critical patients will be prioritized to receive immediate care.

“EMS has brought on additional staff and ambulances, is deploying supervisors and delaying some non-urgent transfers. EMS is also working closely with hospital teams to ensure timely flow through our emergency departments,” she said.

“For example, in Edmonton, EMS operated seven additional ambulances on Thursday night, and our partners were also able to bring in three additional ambulances to support the high call volume.”

While the health authority is not mandating overtime, it is offering overtime to staff who are willing.

Albertans are strongly urged to take precautions during the heat wave and are reminded to stay hydrated by drinking water, use a broad spectrum sunscreen of 30 SPF or higher, ensure shade by wearing a hat or carrying an umbrella, and take frequent breaks out of the heat and sun when possible.


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