Ambulance dispatch services undergoing consolidation

Work to consolidate Red Deer and Rocky Mountain House ambulance dispatch out of Calgary is underway.

Work to consolidate Red Deer and Rocky Mountain House ambulance dispatch out of Calgary is underway.

Alberta Health Services held stakeholder meetings with local EMS and existing dispatch services provided by the City of Red Deer and Rocky Mountain House 911 dispatch on April 26.

“The next steps are working with the stakeholders to develop a project charter. What it does is document the interests of each of the groups that are participating in the consolidation project,” said Jim Garland, AHS executive director EMS dispatch communications and deployment.

So far the Town of Rocky Mountain House, within the Rocky dispatch system, has transferred, leaving Innisfail, Ponoka and Wetaskiwin.

Alberta Health Services is creating one provincial EMS dispatch system that will help to ensure that the closest available ambulance is sent to emergency calls, no matter where they occur in the province.

“In most cases when you’re talking about emergency calls, the City of Red Deer will most likely perform most of those calls within the city boundary because that’s where they’re located,” Garland said.

Red Deer ambulances may be called out of the city to back up other ambulances. They may also respond to a call, for example in Innisfail, after they transfer a patient to Calgary and are travelling back empty to Red Deer.

“But if there wasn’t a lot of ambulances in Red Deer, we would have an Innisfail unit back them up so they could be freed up to get back to Red Deer.”

There are 14 dispatch systems left in the province to transfer to centralized dispatch in Calgary, Edmonton or Peace River. Twenty dispatch systems have already been transferred.

The deadline to complete the transition is Dec. 31.

Once transition is complete, all ambulances and crews in Alberta will have the same equipment to communicate with dispatch centres, including on-board computers for crews in the ambulance to share information back and forth with the dispatch centre, GPS technology that shows where the ambulance is located, the location of the emergency, and the fastest route to get there. Currently, about 70 per cent of ambulances in the province have this technology.

Garland said EMS mapping data will be updated about every three months.

“We have developed a provincial map using municipal map data. We’re the first ones who have ever done that.”