Red Deer city council is calling for an independent third-party review of Alberta Health Services’ decision to consolidate ambulance dispatching — and an investigation into the increase in emergency service delays since the switch.
On Monday, city councillors unanimously approved a proposed resolution to be discussed by the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association at its 2021 conference.
The proposal calls for the Government of Alberta and the Minister of Health to hire an independent reviewer to look into the change in ambulance dispatching in the province. Red Deer city council is also calling on this third-party reviewer to investigate delays in dispatching and emergency response times, as well as the technical outages that have occurred.
“Many municipalities have experienced numerous errors and delays that affected emergency response times (that) would not have occurred under the integrated satellite model,” states the resolution that Red Deer city council hopes will receive AUMA support.
“It’s clear that AHS alone cannot meet the emergency dispatch demands for Alberta, thus putting lives at risk.”
On Jan. 12, emergency ambulance dispatch in the province was fully consolidated into the Alberta Health Services (AHS) provincial dispatch system. Previously, there were four integrated satellite centres, which were used to assist in providing this vital health service.
All local 911 calls are now being rerouted to centralized provincial dispatching centres that don’t have the staff capacity or geographic knowledge of the local area to respond as quickly, Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer and the mayors of Calgary, Lethbridge and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo have repeatedly argued.
Since the move to a total provincial dispatch system, there have several cases of increased response times and technical errors that could have put Albertans’ lives at risk, Red Deer Fire Chief Ken McMullen has previously stated.
Council’s proposed resolution states that “the Alberta integrated satellite centres dispatch approach is proven to be an effective system in delivering prompt, efficient, and accurate emergency dispatch to the residents of Alberta.
“Past centralizations have degraded emergency response, but as this is the final consolidation, the real consequences have yet to be fully experienced by Albertans.”
Members of the AUMA will discuss this and other proposed resolutions at a conference in Edmonton in November. If the resolution is accepted by the membership, it will become an AUMA advocacy item.