News release

Patient Transfer Services Expanded to Improve Access to Care

Nova Scotians will have better access to emergency care with expanded patient transfer services that will relieve pressure on the emergency health system and paramedics.

New staff and more vehicles will be added to the patient transfer unit fleet, doubling the service provided each week. Also, a new vehicle will be added to the medical transport service in Sydney this week, and the service will expand to offer provincewide coverage by the end of the year.

“These changes will free up ambulances and paramedics to focus more on providing the emergency care Nova Scotians need,” said Health and Wellness Minister Michelle Thompson. “These are the kinds of solutions we heard from many front-line health-care staff and will help ensure we are using our resources more efficiently so Nova Scotians can get the care they need more quickly.”

Government will invest $3.1 million annually to expand the patient transfer service, which includes:

  • adding 28 new non-paramedic drivers, which will free up paramedics now required to drive the vehicles
  • adding five new vehicles to the existing fleet
  • doubling the number of patient transfer hours per week, which will help fully staffed ground ambulances focus on 911 responses

Patient transfer units provide non-emergency transportation between health-care facilities for patients who may require some level of monitoring or care during transport. The changes mean the units will be staffed with one Emergency Health Services (EHS) employee who is a driver and one EHS paramedic who provides care. If multiple patients are transported, two EHS paramedics and a driver will staff the unit.

Government will also invest $1.9 million annually to operate an additional eight vans with the medical transport service fleet to offer provincewide coverage. It is expected vans will be in service in Cape Breton, New Glasgow, Truro, Yarmouth, Amherst and Antigonish by the end of December.

Medical transport service vehicles provide non-clinical transportation between health-care facilities for several people at once, including those requiring wheelchair services. They are staffed with one EHS employee who operates the vehicle and is in contact with the EHS medical communication centre.

Quotes:

With the right training and rollout, transport operators can potentially help the system as a whole and allow our emergency ambulances to focus on 911 calls. Alan Edmonds, advanced care paramedic, EHS patient transfer unit

Additional EHS resources in Cape Breton Regional Municipality is welcome news, as the expansion of non-emergency transports will not only help EHS teams respond to emergencies but also support our efforts in transferring multiple patients between sites for appointments and treatments, as well as patients who have been discharged. Brett MacDougall, executive director, Health Services, Eastern Zone, Nova Scotia Health

Quick Facts:

  • there are 160 ambulances and approximately 1,200 paramedics in Nova Scotia
  • EHS paramedics respond to about 175,000 calls every year for emergencies and patient transfers
  • there are now 14 patient transfer units, including multi-patient transfer units and wheelchair patient transfer units
  • there are now three medical transport service vehicles in use in Bridgewater, Kentville and Central Zone as part of a one-year pilot launched in March
  • funding to expand the medical transport service expansion comes from the Canada-Nova Scotia Home and Community Care and Mental Health and Addictions Services Funding Agreement, which was announced in 2016 and provides federal support of approximately $286 million over 10 years to Nova Scotia for initiatives related to youth, mental health, and home and community care

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