Ambulance dispatch staying put

Ambulances will continue to be sent out of Red Deer’s dispatch centre after the province reversed its decision to dissolve the service and transfer it to Calgary. The province put a new deal on the table after Red Deer and other communities sounded the alarm about the potential impact on patients.

Ambulances will continue to be sent out of Red Deer’s dispatch centre after the province reversed its decision to dissolve the service and transfer it to Calgary.

The province put a new deal on the table after Red Deer and other communities sounded the alarm about the potential impact on patients.

A new agreement in principle between the city and the province was inked at a meeting in Calgary on Friday.

The new deal is deemed a “collaborative working model” that allows Red Deer to retain its integrated fire and ambulance dispatch and regional service area.

Any consolidations that have occurred today will still stand including the Alberta Health Services dispatches in Edmonton, Calgary and Peace River.

Under the proposed model, Red Deer, Wood Buffalo and Lethbridge will become satellite dispatch centres as a delegated authority under a dispatch contract.

The satellite centres will provide back up in the case of provincial wide emergencies or if another dispatch centre runs into problems.

Mayor Tara Veer said the city’s intent was to retain regional ambulance dispatch, its service area and the ability to integrate fire and ambulance response.

“The collaborative model that is on the table at a high level appears to accomplish this,” said Veer.

“Obviously there will be a period of operational transition and interface that will occur and will come once we deal with the dispatch contracts… On a high level principle basis, this is the best case scenario for Red Deer and region.”

City manager Craig Curtis called the agreement a positive outcome for Red Deer and surrounding communities. Curtis said they do not have all the specifics including service area boundaries.

Veer said not only is this good news for its lobbying efforts but ultimately for the health and safety of Red Deerians and the region.

Each year Red Deer provides ambulance and fire service to an estimated 300,000 residents outside of Red Deer. The city provides fire dispatch to 70 municipalities and ambulance dispatch to eight municipalities.

“We have shifted from cautiously optimistic to optimistic that there will be a solution,” said Curtis. “The province’s decision to reevaluate their plan and revisit this conversation demonstrates their respect and commitment to the health and well being of citizens and communities across the province.”

Veer said Health Minister Fred Horne said in the meeting this is a high priority for the province. She expects the city will enter into formal contract negotiations with the province in the coming weeks.

Horne said municipalities will have a place at the table for future discussions related to dispatch.

A similar proposal was also presented to Lethbridge and Wood Buffalo mayors on Friday.

A report from the Health Quality Council of Alberta recommended ambulance dispatch be centralized in March 2013.

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