As a Paramedic at Alberta Health Services, Don Sharpe has a keen insight into the state of healthcare in Canada. In this exclusive interview for RAIR Foundation USA, Mr. Sharpe reveals how hospitals regularly force patients in dire need of care to wait to be admitted.
Sharpe spends some of his time volunteering in Israel as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), and is President of the Alberta branch of the Jewish Defence League. A pro-liberty activist, Sharpe also speaks at an annual Freedom Conference in Alberta called “Freedom Talk“.
‘Ramping’ and ‘Staking’
During the interview, Sharpe explains that hospitals do not immediately accept patients brought in via ambulance. One will find multiple emergency patients often waiting in hallways for care. This is a common phenomenon, Sharpe explains. In Australia and in the United Kingdom, EMTs are often forced to keep patients in urgent need of medical care in their vehicles at the hospital. In Australia, the practice is called “ramping.” In the UK, it is called “staking.”
Sharpe explains that in Canada, at least patients are allowed to be removed from their vehicles. “But every day, you’ll see patients lined up in hallways of hospital emergency departments and with the paramedics because the hospital refuses to accept care of these patients,” Sharpe said.
Patient volume at record levels, patients in the ED [Emergency Department] on observation status, and even patients awaiting inpatient beds are resulting in delays for ambulance crews trying to transition patients from their care to the ED staff. Numerous agencies across the country are reporting 60, 90, and 120+ minute delays getting patients into the ED.
A ‘Huge Leadership Vacuum’
Sharpe said there is a “huge leadership vacuum” in healthcare in Canada.
Not only do these potentially dangerous delays hurt patients in need of critical care, they harm professional EMTs, who are forced to “be held hostage” in hospitals. Sharpe continues to criticize the leadership for not addressing this issue:
“It’s unconscionable that EMS [Emergency Medical Services] leadership continues to accept the response times of 15 or 18 minutes for critical emergency or that they allow literally half of their fleet to be held hostage in hospital hallways for hours at a time – day and night – rather than to be out in the community…”
Taking on the System
Over time, EMTs have offered potential solutions to leaders and the hospital establishment only to be brushed aside. Mr. Sharpe tells RAIR that some have taken on the issue directly by holding town halls to inform the public of the issue. “We’ve decided to take the problem out to the people,” he said. “And we’ve hosted town halls now in ten different communities and we plan to do more of them,” Sharpe explained.
The goal is to alert the public of the “EMS Crisis” and form “citizen action groups” to address the issue. The events themselves have been remarkably successful, sometimes drawing 80-100 people, he said. Sometimes, people attend the town halls whose loved ones have been harmed or even died as a result of long response times.
A 2017 article posted at the journal Emergency Medicine Australasia delves into the ethics of allowing ambulances to sit outside at hospitals.
Here is an excerpt of the conclusion:
The practice of ramping seems to represent the following position. Let us shore up the safety of those people in the health system, even if this requires us to risk the safety of those in the community who may need urgent entry into the health system.
We cannot do everything (because of resource scarcity), so we must at least guarantee the safety of those we have accepted into the health system.
This is a defensible position. However, there are potential ethical problems, which we have discussed above. In particular, ramping runs counter to, and frustrates, the community orientation of the ambulance service. In this respect, ramping challenges paramedics’ professional identity and duty.
Socialism Degrades Healthcare
At one point, EMTs would volunteer their services and take care of their own vehicles, he said. But now, it is different. Don Sharpe discusses how – over time – EMS has been battered by overbearing bureaucratic socialist policies.
The only people who are allowed to work in an ALS [Advanced Life Support] ambulance are people who’ve been approved by Central Control, licensed by the Alberta College Paramedics and driving around in an approved vehicle – which has been approved by the government….”
Some community oriented citizens have attempted to take matters into their own hands by obtaining their own ambulance for emergency use.
The MD [Medical Doctor] of Willow Creek in Southern Alberta actually bought an ambulance…as a spare…and the government said ‘don’t you dare.’ And…one of the small town mayors of Southern Alberta – when the ambulance wasn’t available – he actually went to the hall and got a spare ambulance, took it out and did a call in it – went to someone’s house and picked them up – he was actually charged. He was charged…with theft. He actually spent time in jail.”
Those who speak out are intimidated, Sharpe explains. It is up to all citizens to ask questions and find out what is happening in their own communities.
See Don Sharpe’s White Sheet on the issue here:
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