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Alberta adding paramedics who can help treat seniors in their homes


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CALGARY — Alberta is expanding a program that allows paramedics to treat seniors at home in non-emergency situations instead of having to take them to a hospital.

Associate Health Minister Brandy Payne says 10 such paramedics are being added in each of Edmonton and Calgary to complement 30 colleagues already providing the service.

Some 26 full-time positions are to be filled in Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Red Deer, Camrose, Grande Prairie and Peace River.

Speaking in Calgary, Payne said the idea is to eliminate the potential risk and stress a hospital visit can put seniors through.

She also said it’s hoped the approach will reduce wait times in hospital ERs for people who do need emergency care.

It will cost $11 million to expand the program.

Seniors living in continuing care will be able to call a separate number from 911 to help evaluate the seriousness of their situation.

“Ultimately, any time that someone who doesn’t need to go to an emergency room doesn’t go to an emergency room, that helps make sure that patients who do need to be there are able to be seen faster,” Payne said Tuesday.

Barb Ferguson, executive director of the Alzheimer Society of Calgary, said hospital visits are particularly traumatic for someone experiencing dementia.

“Imagine if you didn’t recognize what an ambulance was anymore, and then you have some people in a uniform coming and taking you out of your home and taking you to a strange place,” she said.