Dispatch change upsets officials
Closing Red Deer’s ambulance dispatch centre is the wrong move, say city officials.
This week the Health Quality Council of Alberta released its long-awaited 350-page report on ambulance services in the province.
One recommendation is to proceed with the province’s plan to consolidate all ambulance dispatch centres into three centralized locations — Edmonton, Calgary and likely a northern site.
Red Deer Emergency Services fire chief Jack MacDonald said his department is still delving into the details and does not know the full impacts of the consolidation.
City manager Craig Curtis said the centralized consolidation discounts the value of local knowledge.
“We have operated a regional dispatch that has serviced many municipalities for many years,” said Curtis. “We feel these type of services are best delivered on a regional basis.”
Curtis said the city will continue to push the province to let the city retain the centre that has served the city and region well for years.
“Our EMS dispatch centre is familiar with the local and rural areas we serve,” said Curtis. “The logistical and familiarity issues raised in 2009 still remain — a mapping system can’t entirely replace the local knowledge and expertise built into our current ambulance dispatch system.”
Curtis said the city is unclear how this may impact its contract for ambulance or what level of service is provided by other ambulances to Red Deer residents.
Reducing the number of dispatch centres is a good move, believes Keri Huot, an Alberta Health Services EMS operations manager for the Central Zone.
Centralizing dispatch will make it easier to track ambulances around the province.
“That’s the good thing about consolidation of dispatch. We’ll be able to know where all the ambulances are in the province,” said Huot.
“I see it being a positive. It’s going to have its challenges as it’s new, and as it’s integrated in. But I think at the end of the day, I think it will have some real positive outcomes.”
Keith Boras, Lacombe County’s manager of environmental and protective services, said in a recent report to council that Red Deer’s ambulance dispatch doesn’t have the ability to track ambulances on screen in real time using automatic vehicle location technology.
That makes it more difficult to determine the closest ambulance to a call.
It is believed that might have led to an increase in calls to volunteer firefighters to act as medical emergency first responders when ambulances can’t get there soon enough.