(File photo)

(File photo)

Red Deer EMS could get increase of 14 staffers in 2023-24

Council gives initial approval to more fire/medics than were in the proposed budget

Red Deer city council gave initial approval for 14 Emergency Services workers to be hired over the next two years — upping the recommendation in the proposed budget.

These 14 new hires would fall somewhere between what protective services manager Ken McMullen wanted — 20 additional EMS workers — and the 10 that were in the proposed multi-year budget with a council-targeted tax increase of 4.79 per cent for 2023 and 4.38 per cent for 2024.

“I think we have a livable option,” said Mayor Ken Johnston, who personally benefitted from local firefighter service after experiencing a quarter-million-dollar house fire in 2003.

He feels council had to carry out a balancing act between providing Red Deerians with a reliable vital service and keeping the tax increase within reasonable limits.

Johnston proposed giving the EMS department all 20 of the additional members that McMullen had asked for. But the majority of councillors did not support the sizable impact this would have on the tax rate and the accompanying reduction in the one per cent contribution council has resolved to put towards replenish its savings reserves.

While hiring 14 additional EMS workers would push Red Deer’s tax increase to 5.12 per cent for 2023 and 4.71 per cent for 2024 (if all other costs in the proposed budget remained the same), city councillors continued to work Thursday on reductions to keep next year’s tax rate under 4.8 per cent.

McMullen believes the gain of 14 staffers (six new fire-medics and one dispatcher in each of 2023 and 2024,) will certainly help reduce overtime hours and resulting mental health stresses on EMS workers.

While he had hoped to increase the department by 20 additional workers, he added that he understands council had to take into consideration economic realities as well as what was needed in other city departments.

McMullen is, meanwhile, negotiating a new contract with Alberta Health Services and asking for three to five more ambulances for the city. If this ambulance contract is accepted, he noted it would come with additional staffing for the ambulances — paid for by AHS, instead of Red Deer taxpayers

Emergency services could therefore end up with more than 14 new workers in the longer run.

Johnston noted that council is also looking for AHS to make some much needed health care reforms by 2024 that would reduce ambulance waits at hospitals as well as inter-hospital patient transfers that are tying up EMS workers now.

Red Deer City Council

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