April 19th, 2024

Province invests $3.85 million in medical first responders

By Steffanie Costigan - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on February 22, 2024.

Herald file photo by David Rossiter - Lethbridge paramedics Marcella Bakker and Drew Clark check supplies on their ambulance. The province has announced $3.85 million in funding towards equipment and tools for training first medical responders.

The Alberta government on Wednesday announced $3.85 million in new funding to Medical First Responders to benefit more than 200 medical MFR partner agencies.

“These investments will directly benefit more than 200 medical first responders partner agencies across our province. These agencies are an essential part of our Emergency Response Network, and are heroes to those in their times of greatest need,” said Minister of Health Adriana LaGrange during the announcement in Gibbons.

LaGrange said one stream of funding would go towards equipment and tools for training first medical responders.

“The first part of this support will be made available through the training and equipment fund and building on the previous success of the medical first responder program. The medical first responder training and equipment fund has expanded by $1.35 million this year and now includes medium and large agencies, including fire departments, remote rural municipalities and Indigenous communities already engaged in the Medical First Responders program,” she shared.

She noted a total of 117 MFR agencies would benefit from the funding and would provide them with essential equipment including, “modern automated external defibrillators, trauma bags, CPR mannequins, and facilitating instructor development and frontline response training courses. These investments will enhance the effectiveness of our first responders and improve patient outcomes province-wide.”

Greg Adair, chief of Lethbridge Fire & Emergency Services, said in a statement to The Herald that “The City of Lethbridge is grateful to see the announcement today from the Government of Alberta to provide financial support to municipalities through the Medical First Response (MFR) Program. 

“Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services (LFES) provides MFR to more than 5,000 calls every year. With our integrated Fire and EMS service, this means, regardless of whether we are sending a fire truck as a MFR or an ambulance arrives, we can provide an advanced paramedic level of care. Having financial support from the Government of Alberta will allow up to continue this high level of care for Lethbridge and area and support the training and equipment needed to provide this critical service. 

“This program is a great example of how local and provincial collaboration can help best serve our communities.”

LaGrange acknowledged the unique challenges rural areas, along with remote Albertan communities, face.

The second stream of funding totals $2.5 million and will provide direct financial support to 183 MFR agencies to offset some of the costs in providing MFR including increased event volumes, population growth and inflation on the cost of equipment and fuel.

“This initiative will ease the financial burden associated with delivering emergency services in these areas, ensuring equitable access to life saving care for all Albertans no matter where they live in our province,” said the Minister.

“We are at a crucial, crucial moment in health care in Alberta as we move forward with our work to refocus the health care service delivery model. As part of this effort, we’re prioritizing reducing EMS response time and enhancing access to care in rural areas across the province,” said LaGrange.

She said this will have a direct impact on the needs of rural Albertans.

“By addressing the specific needs of rural Alberta, we can build a more resilient and unified healthcare system that meets the diverse needs of our population. This approach will require continued collaboration between our government, health care providers, EMS agencies, and community partners to effectively implement and sustain these changes,” she said.

Alberta Health Services executive director of EMS provincial programs, Marty Scott, voiced EMS gratitude for the supported funding .

“We very much appreciate government support and action on EMS priority,” said Scott.

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