The communities of Wood Buffalo, Calgary, Red Deer, and Lethbridge are calling on Premier Jason Kenney to reverse the decision to remove the local EMS dispatch sites.
Alberta’s Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced last week he would be moving forward with Alberta Health Services’ plan to centralize the sites into one of three provincial centres.
The mayors of the four communities held a joint conference on Tuesday where they continued to call out the decision stating this ‘directly threatens the health and safety’ of residents.
“If you want to dismantle a strong healthcare system this is exactly how you start it,” said Mayor Don Scott. “The rationale to move forward with consolidation demonstrates a decision based on ideology, not intellect.
The RMWB has continued to claim local dispatchers are faster than their provincial counterparts.
According to Regional Emergency Services, in around 90 per cent of calls local dispatchers send out ambulances around 48 seconds faster and verify addresses around 30 seconds quicker than their provincial counterparts.
One of the reasons the region has been able to send out ambulances so fast is help from the oil companies who cover many of the emergencies in the rural areas.
“I’m calling on Minister Shandro to release the details of exactly how he guarantees that our mutual aid agreements and neighbouring First Nations and Métis communities will not be impacted,” added Scott. “There has been no evidence of this guarantee to date and I fail to understand how he can make this guarantee.”
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi also claims they got data from AHS on Monday, three days after the announcement, however, they’ve been told not to share this information with the public.
He adds he hopes this is just a misunderstanding as he believes the public should see the data from the communities and AHS side-by-side.
“I expect they’re nervous because it doesn’t tell the story that they have been telling which is this will somehow improve patient outcomes when we know, and we have plenty of evidence, it will not.”
AHS Defends Decision
Shandro and AHS continue to defend the decision claiming nothing will change for those who call 9-1-1.
In a letter, Shandro noted ‘a province-wide EMS dispatch system will improve patient care.’ He states this will send the closest available ambulance to a patient regardless of geographical boundaries.
AHS also sent out a response on Tuesday to common concerns raised from the four communities.
They note this move is needed as it will allow them to co-ordinate air ambulances, medical first responder partners, transfers between health facilities, and community paramedics more efficiently.
AHS says they also use mapping information and data provided by the municipalities to help them locate each caller. They add local dispatchers don’t have any additional physical information.
The four communities, especially Wood Buffalo, have cited concerns over the layout as local dispatchers know more landmarks.
“Ambulance services in each community will continue to be delivered by the same local paramedics who provide the service today. These local professionals know the streets, locations, and neighbourhoods, and will continue working with EMS dispatch to respond to any emergency in every local community.”
In response to the added volume expected at the centres, AHS is planning to hire 25 additional employers to cover calls from Calgary. They believe the number of calls from the other three communities is ‘negligible’ so they won’t be adding any more workers.