Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer and other Alberta mayors have been advocating against the decision by Alberta Health Services and the Alberta government to consolidate regional ambulance dispatch services since July 2020. (Contributed photo)

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer and other Alberta mayors have been advocating against the decision by Alberta Health Services and the Alberta government to consolidate regional ambulance dispatch services since July 2020. (Contributed photo)

Red Deer’s mayor takes ambulance dispatch complaint to Alberta Ombudsman

The change made in January is impacting patient care, says Tara Veer

The City of Red Deer is among four municipalities who have filed an official complaint with the Alberta Ombudsman regarding the consolidation of ambulance dispatch.

Since July 2020, the City of Red Deer along with Lethbridge, Calgary and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, have been advocating against the decision by Alberta Health Services and the Alberta government to consolidate regional ambulance dispatch services.

Ambulance dispatching was still officially consolidated across Alberta on Jan. 12. Since then, the four regions have reported experiencing “significant issues” that have increased the risk to patients’ care.

These municipalities have now jointly filed a complaint against the decision and the system with the Alberta Ombudsman.

“Our communities have tried every avenue to communicate with the government that this system is flawed and to strongly dispute the effectiveness of it, but our calls for a third party review remain unanswered,” said Mayor Veer of the City of Red Deer.

“We will not be giving up the fight for what we know is in the best interest of patient safety.”

Veer added that she hopes filing this official complaint with the Alberta Ombudsman reinforces “that we will exhaust every avenue possible to revisit the government’s decision, and ultimately we hope the Ombudsman will review the decision of AHS.”

“It is unacceptable that we continue to risk people’s lives,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi, of Calgary. “We’ve seen the data and listened to those on the frontline and we know that this dispatch system cannot meet the needs of patients in our cities. We hope that the Alberta Ombudsman will consider the severity of the situation and convince our provincial government to make the right decision.”

Mayor Chris Spearman of Lethbridge said, “This is an alarm that our provincial government and AHS are still not listening to. … I hope (the complaint) will finally amplify our serious concerns and make patient safety a priority for our communities.”

“We have witnessed the deterioration of ambulance dispatch,” since consolidation, said Mayor Don Scott of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. “Our commitment to patient safety, and positive patient outcomes remains top priority.”

The four mayors urge Albertans who have experienced delays, or seen a degradation in service since the consolidation, to share their stories with the government and call on the premier to return emergency dispatch services to local jurisdictions.

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