‘When people call for an ambulance, it’s an urgent situation,’ says NDP health critic David Shepherd. (Contributed photo)

‘When people call for an ambulance, it’s an urgent situation,’ says NDP health critic David Shepherd. (Contributed photo)

Ambulance dispatch consolidation has issues: NDP

The consolidation of dispatch services has led to some “serious issues,” says the Alberta’s NDP health critic.

After a Red Deer woman expressed her frustrations with the dispatch consolidation, the official opposition’s critic of health, David Shepherd, said the current system is flawed.

“Albertans should be able to depend on a quality and responsive EMS system that is there to help them in times of real distress and to support them and their loved ones,” Shepherd said.

“(Health Minister Tyler Shandro) gave his personal promise that this consolidation, this change, would not affect either the timing or quality of this service that Albertans depend on.”

READ MORE: Consolidated ambulance dispatch a failure, says Red Deer resident who called 911

Shepherd said that promise is being broken, as evidenced by the raised concerns from the mayors of Red Deer, Lethbridge, Calgary and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.

“It’s incredibly concerning. Mayor (Tara) Veer is on the record saying that Red Deer would pay the difference in cost to continue operating their own system. This is not something that is saving the province any money,” said Shepherd.

Ambulance dispatch was consolidated for Red Deer, Lethbridge, Calgary and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo on Jan. 12.

READ MORE: Red Deer Mayor makes last-minute appeal to a premier

Red Deer’s Joanne Burkin shared a story about her frustrations with the dispatch consolidation after having to calling for an ambulance for her husband. Stories like Burkin’s need to be heard, said Shepherd.

“Of course the minister is insistent that it’s not about the cost, it’s about improving service delivery. But then we have situations like this … that seem to indicate that service delivery has not been continued and there have indeed been some serious issues,” Shepherd, adding he recognizes the “incredible work” done by dispatchers and medical workers.

This is an urgent situation, Shepherd said.

“When people call for an ambulance, it’s an urgent situation. That is not a casual thing, it could be a life or death situation,” he said.

“For somebody who is there with a loved one who may be having a medical crisis, often having somebody on the line to talk them through that, I know (that) can sometimes make all of the difference in terms of being able to help.”

Red Deer-North MLA Adriana LaGrange was not available for comment.

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