Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer was disappointed that a vote to reverse ambulance dispatch centralization was defeated in the Alberta Legislature.
The Mayors of Calgary, Lethbridge, Red Deer, with support from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, say they were dismayed the legislative assembly did not support a motion on Monday to reverse the decision of centralizing emergency dispatch.
The four communities, which lost local ambulance dispatching centres earlier this year, say they will continue calling on MLAs to push to overturn the decision made by Alberta Health Services to consolidate EMS dispatch to a few centralized hubs, for the health and safety of all Albertans.
The motion urged the government to take into consideration the views of the residents of Calgary, Lethbridge, and Red Deer, “who are well served by a local, integrated model of emergency dispatch,” and take immediate steps to reverse the decision to implement the centralization of the dispatch of emergency medical services.
Since the consolidation of EMS dispatch, each region has experienced “significant issues,” in varying degrees with the consolidated service.
“We strongly dispute the effectiveness of this consolidated system, and we are disappointed that the issue did not receive majority support in the Legislative Assembly,” said Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer.
She added, “We are asking all members of the legislative assembly to continue to do what is best for Albertans in the name of health and safety and hear the concerns of communities across our province.”
Mayor Chris Spearman of Lethbridge said, “This is a non-partisan issue. It is about recognizing the importance of community safety and preserving the effectiveness of emergency services. We are disappointed in the outcome of the decision today.”
“As we warned about prior to the consolidation taking place, the Government of Alberta simply was not ready to implement this sweeping change,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi of Calgary.
“The evidence for consolidation was never made publicly available, which should have been a massive red flag that they were unprepared to implement their plan. This is totally unacceptable, and is clearly a matter of life and death. I continue to call on the Government of Alberta to reverse this decision,” added Nenshi.
Mayor Don Scott, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo said, “We continue to support the intent of the MLAs motion, and we stand shoulder to shoulder in support of our like-minded fellow municipalities.”
The mayors contend that removing local, integrated EMS dispatch has hurt the health and safety of Albertans and impacted patient outcomes in all four regions, which are served by cross-trained fire-medics.
The mayors are urging all Albertans to call on the premier to step-in and return emergency dispatch services to local jurisdictions. “Additionally, we again request that a third-party external review of the EMS dispatch system be conducted to provide recommendations to improve Alberta’s emergency services.”
But Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has stated that he supports the AHS decision to consolidate, which has been working well for most of the province for the past few years. The government is saving about $6 million annually to dispatch 911 ambulance calls out of several provincial hubs, instead of local centres in Red Deer and other communities.
But others have questioned whether this is the first step towards the province privatizing ambulance service.