In July, Alberta Health Services (AHS) made changes to COVID-19 protocols for dispatchers and paramedics, calling the decision a “transition to active recovery”.
According to an AHS memo obtained by Global News, as of July 15, communication officers or dispatchers no longer have to routinely screen for COVID-19 symptoms on calls with patients.
Dispatchers also no longer use the warning ‘Card 36’, which tells paramedics if a patient is presenting symptoms over the phone.
One Alberta paramedic is hesitant to say what the consequences of these changes will be on them and their colleagues.
“With the removal of Card 36 there’s no longer a specific pathway that dispatchers can use to ask if a person is having COVID-19 symptoms… this in turn absolutely puts paramedics at an increased level of risk once they get to the patient,” they say.
We rely heavily on information provided by dispatchers. They say that they are removing this tool from their toolbox in a time of increasing COVID and more questions about vaccine efficacy against the delta variant.
“This will have a compounding affect on a system that’s already more stressed than people realize.”
“The EMS system in Alberta is in distress.”
In a statement to Global News, AHS says that “treating individuals with suspected and confirmed COVID -19 will continue to be part of EMS work and our teams are well prepared to respond. The EMS teams have all the information they need to use COVID precautions Our dispatch officers will no longer screen for COVID symptoms during routine call evaluations. However, they will continue to use all screening tools, including asking about COVID symptoms, based on caller information,” it continues.
Memo to AHS EMS Staff and CSP
AHS acute care and emergency capacity addressed in wake of recent bed closures
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