Following a meeting with four Alberta mayors, Minister of Health Tyler Shandro has committed to reviewing material regarding Alberta Health Services’ new emergency dispatch system.
On Aug. 4, the city was notified AHS intends to remove integrated municipal ambulance dispatch services in Red Deer, Lethbridge, Calgary and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. Dispatch services would instead be consolidated into three AHS communications centres in Peace River, Edmonton and Calgary.
Earlier this week, Red Deer city council urged the provincial government to keep the region’s existing emergency dispatch system.
The mayors of the four impacted communities met with Shandro on Thursday.
“As an outcome of the meeting, the minister committed to reviewing the material that we submitted, both in a verbal presentation as well as our written submissions,” said Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer.
“There was not a specific commitment in terms of our formal ask of the minister, which is to overturn AHS for the fifth time on this issue.”
While the minister of health didn’t commit to a specific timeline to finish reviewing the submitted material, he was briefed on the need for a timely decision, said Veer.
“We did indicate that we will continue to pursue the public safety interest on this matter, up to the January deadline that AHS has articulated to us,” she said.
“The communities who were present and the regions we represented (at the meeting Thursday) remain resolute in our position that ambulance dispatch should be kept local and that is in the interest of patient outcomes for all Albertans.”
The new consolidated dispatch is being done in an effort to save $5 million.
According to the City of Red Deer, its integrated fire and emergency ambulance service “is regarded nationally and internationally for its efficiency, and most importantly, patient-first approach.”
All firefighters and paramedics with Red Deer Emergency Services are trained to do both jobs, whereas AHS responders are only trained for ambulance service.
Fire vehicles may not be initially sent to accidents along with an ambulance, necessitating some second calls, with 911 callers having to repeat their locations and situations, says the city.
City figures show that Red Deer’s 911 emergency communications centre dispatches vehicles faster than the AHS emergency communications centre in Edmonton, says the city.
Last quarter, the AHS communications centre in Edmonton averaged a dispatch time of 92 seconds — despite AHS having a standard of 90 seconds, says the city.
Red Deer’s system averaged 71 seconds during the same period.