Pilot Project to Address Emergency Department Offload Delays in Regina and Saskatoon

Saskatchewan will soon pilot an emergency medical services (EMS) triage system in Regina and Saskatoon to help improve patient flow and reduce ambulance offload delays within emergency departments (ED).

A new triage software support system to be introduced this June will utilize a Registered Nurse (RN) to evaluate calls processed by an Emergency Medical Dispatcher and deemed non-emergent. The RN will be able to direct the patients to an alternative, appropriate health care option if it is determined they do not require an ambulance.

“We are grateful for the work done by our EMS providers, and we have heard from them the need to address pressures caused by unnecessary EMS transfers to hospital emergency departments,” Health Minister Everett Hindley said. “This new support system will streamline services for our EMS providers and help ensure that patients are seeing the right health care provider in the right location at the right time.” 

A significant number of patients calling 911 are transported to a provincial ED, which is not always the most appropriate facility to address their health care needs. Upon arrival, urban and rural EMS responders may encounter offload delays as responders are required to remain at the hospital until care of the patient can be transferred. This ties up needed EMS resources as they are prevented from returning to their home communities to respond to other emergencies. This new system will direct 911 callers who do not need an ambulance to an alternative point of care.

A dedicated RN will be available 12 hours a day within each of the Regina and Saskatoon Medical Communication and Coordination Centres (MCCCs) operated by the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) and Medavie Health Services West. 

“Ensuring that our ambulances are available to assist those in need is a priority for the SHA,” SHA Provincial Clinical and Support Services – Community Care Executive Director Rod MacKenzie said. “Providing appropriate care to all patients in the most suitable setting is the best way to ensure individual care needs are being met and that our ambulances are available for the next response. This additional layer of assessment will help improve patient care and avoid overwhelming emergency departments.”

Medavie Health Services West provides emergency paramedic and dispatch services under contract with the SHA to the City of Saskatoon and surrounding rural communities as well as regional dispatch services.

“Our purpose is to make a meaningful difference in the lives of our patients and their families through the delivery of high-quality care,” Medavie Health Services-West Chief Operating Officer Gerry Schriemer said. “Developing and identifying appropriate health tools to best suit the changing needs of our communities is vital to the evolution of care. Adding secondary triage with Registered Nurses, as an enhancement to the Medical Priority Dispatch System used in MCCCs, will provide our region with additional care options when transport may not be the most appropriate option. This is another exciting advancement on providing the right care, in the right place, at the right time.”

The 2024-25 Budget includes a $7.5 million increase in annual funding to enhance EMS across the province, which will support EMS and community paramedicine positions in Saskatoon and other locations, including rural and northern communities.