In this message, I would like to take a few moments to highlight a key pillar in our strategic plan and let you know how we are working on fulfilling our goals in this area. I suspect there are more than a few members who may not be familiar with the College’s 2020 Strategic Plan or why it is an important document. Essentially, a strategic plan is the document that ultimately guides both Council and administrative decisions. You will note that there are 4 “pillars” in the document and the piece that I would like to highlight is the Public and Profession Focus.
To effectively advocate on behalf of both the public and the profession, you first need to be invited to a seat at the table where important decisions get made. In the past, the College participated on several national initiatives where the interests of the public and the profession aligned, most notably the development of the Paramedic Associations of Canada’s 2011 National Occupational Competency Profile (the PAC NOCPs, 2011). Many Alberta practitioners were consulted during the development of the NOCPs which have served as the guide for curriculum development over the past decade.
However, when it comes to provincial initiatives, our ability to advocate for the profession has been limited. The development of the Medical First Response Program was established by an advisory panel formed in 2011. The College did not have a seat at the table.
In 2018, significant changes to the OH&S Code redefined the definition of Advanced First Aider, much to the detriment of many of our members, yet once again, the College did not have a seat.
More recently, the final version of the Ground Ambulance Regulations, which came into force in July of 2020, was first presented to the College and our members on the day it was released, despite our requests to have a seat at the table to provide feedback.
I mention these specific examples not to be disrespectful to any of the organizations involved or refute the work that was put into these initiatives, but to highlight that these decisions had a huge impact for many members, particularly EMRs working rural and/or industrial. Employment opportunities in industry are now being increasingly offered to unregulated providers and working on an emergency response vehicle in the public EMS system is now limited to PCPs and ACPs.
While this certainly impacted the employability for EMRs, there also was an impact on the care that was being provided to Albertans. In many circumstances, hardworking Albertans in the oil and gas sector do not have access to the same level of emergent health care as they once had, and certainly a “lower” level of care than they would receive within the public EMS system. Further, the public EMS system itself is now facing significant challenges, particularly in rural communities, which has been the center of attention in the media as of late.
I am not suggesting that if the College had been consulted on these changes that these issues would never have occurred. However, as the regulatory college we have the unique ability to provide insight on potential areas of concerns to those who are unfamiliar with the challenges to the profession and the potential impact on the public.
So, you might be wondering what the College is doing to impact changes and fulfill our mandate within the strategic plan. Over the past couple of years, the College has started to get invites to the table and has been able to contribute to these initiatives in a meaningful way. As we get these invites, we are also able to share these opportunities with members so you too can have your voices heard. Some of you may remember a few months back the College shared a call for volunteers for two different committees that were helping with the development in the Pan-Canadian Essential Regulatory Requirements (PERRs) project.
The College continues to work closely with the Canadian Organization of Paramedic Regulators (COPR) on the development of the PERRs project alongside the volunteer committees, and we are pleased to provide the most recent update, which can be found here PERRs Fact Sheet (copr.ca). The goal is to develop a model that includes both competencies and standards which will inform not only entry to practice education, but also key areas of regulation that will impact our practice.
As you know, the College meets frequently with the Ministry of Health to ensure that issues within our profession are brought forward proactively. Recently we were excited to be included in the Alberta Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Provincial Advisory Committee (AEPAC). This committee was initiated by the Minister of Health in a response to concerns brought forward related to issues facing AHS EMS. I was pleased that the College was recognized as an important stakeholder and I sincerely hope that the output of this committee will result in lasting positive changes to the public EMS system, leading to better care for everyone who relies on the services our members provide.
Our participation on this committee is a clear example of how we can incorporate part of our strategic plan. I want to let you all know that we have been informed there will be opportunities for members to have their voices heard during the AEPAC EMS review process. As we gain more information, we will be sure to pass it along.
Getting invited to the table where impactful decisions get made about our profession is important. Ensuring we are bringing forward information that accurately reflects the delivery of emergency healthcare to Albertans is critical, and we are optimistic that the AEPAC will generate solutions that align with the interest of both the public and the profession.
Tim A. Ford, ACP