Email letters to

The problem isn’t dispatching, it’s a shortage of ambulances

Having worked in EMS for more than 43 years, and having lobbied for improved EMS for more than 10 years now, I would like to respond to the ongoing controversy over the plan to consolidate EMS dispatch.

Until about 10 years ago, each municipality individually dispatched their own ambulances. The province took over dispatch, except for four municipalities that hung on: Calgary, Red Deer, Lethbridge and Wood Buffalo.

Now, 10 years later, the province is finally going to be co-ordinating ambulance dispatch in the whole province.

The mayors of these municipalities have strongly opposed this move.

They have cried that Minister Tyler Shandro and Premier Jason Kenney will have blood on their hands and lives will be lost.

We hear, “It’s an issue of life and death. It could cause delays in co-ordinated response. It may increase fire response by 90 seconds. People are going to die.”

Give me a break. Whether the dispatcher is employed by the province or the municipality, is not a life and death issue.

Here’s a reality check.

Mayors, people are dying now. When your city is in daily code red and has no ambulances available to respond, know that all surrounding communities don’t either, because those ambulances have been sucked into your city to do calls.

You have frustrated ambulance crews stuck in hospital hallways, with their patients, for hours, and even shifts, on end and unable to respond.

You have dispatchers desperately trying to find a unit to respond to stacked up calls for help.

Although EMS management comforts us with, “We always have an ambulance available to respond, and Albertans will get the nearest ambulance,” we see ambulances responding from Vulcan, and even Claresholm, to Calgary, from Calgary to Cochrane and Airdrie, and farther, for emergencies.

This computes to response times of 30 minutes, an hour, and even more.

Was there a tidal wave of people dying in Edmonton post-consolidation of dispatch? Nope. But there are real people, today, dying while waiting for that elusive “nearest ambulance.”

Where is your outcry? Where is your demand for improvement to EMS? Where is your concern for your constituents?

To the mayors: Get out of your office and educate yourselves. Go tour the central dispatch centres and see the technology that is there and how it functions.

The move to consolidate EMS dispatch is a small but necessary step that will improve co-ordination in the system. It does not make sense for 40 per cent of the province to be dispatched by the cities and the rest by the province.

Now it’s incumbent on Minister Shandro to take the $6 million in savings and do something useful with it. He has committed to doing just that and I, for one, am looking forward to seeing what he does.

Maybe we can finally get paramedics out of the hospital hallways for hours on end. Or maybe we can finally invest in actual solutions to the deteriorating mental health of our frontline EMS staff.

Or maybe we can actively do something to address the profound lack of leadership we have with layers upon layers of managers in the system.

EMS is broken and there is a lot of work to be done to fix it. All this political posturing makes me think that perhaps this isn’t about patient care, or improving EMS dispatch. Perhaps it’s about something else.

George Porter is a Glenwood resident.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, announced the province surpasses one million COVID-19 tests Friday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
COVID-19: Red Deer at 141 active cases

Central zone active cases up by 100 in last 24 hours

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Red Deer area seniors facility pauses visits after staff tests positive for COVID

A Red Deer County seniors facility has put the breaks on visitors… Continue reading

Alberta confirmed more than 1,500 COVID-19 cases Sunday

Alberta confirmed 1,584 COVID-19 cases Sunday afternoon. The total active cases went… Continue reading

Hockey Canada logo at an event in Toronto on November 1, 2017. A “non-core member” of Hockey Canada’s National Junior Team staff has tested positive for COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Hockey Canada staff member tests positive for COVID-19 in Red Deer

A “non-core member” of Hockey Canada’s National Junior Team staff has tested… Continue reading

Lynn Van Laar, chair of this year’s Christmas Wish Breakfast, said the event was planned outdoors to minimize the risk of COVID. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff
Outdoor Christmas Wish Breakfast helps central Alberta families this holiday season

The coronavirus pandemic isn’t going to stop children from having a merry… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pauses after responding to a question about the holidays during a news conference outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau joins G20 in promising COVID-19 aid to poor nations, rejecting protectionism

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined leaders from the world’s 20… Continue reading

Justice Minister David Lametti responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons, in Ottawa, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. The federal bill revising the rules on medically assisted death in Canada has raised the ire of the Canadian Psychiatric Association over the proposed law’s explicit rejection of mental illness as grounds for ending a patient’s life. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Exclusion of mental illness in assisted dying-bill slammed by psychiatrists

OTTAWA — The federal bill revising the rules on medically assisted death… Continue reading

The Quebec flag is seen on the podium as Bloc leader Yves-François Blanchet responds to a question during a news conference Wednesday June 3, 2020 in Ottawa. Perennial anxieties around the state of the French language in Quebec have boiled over in the past week, with politicians seizing on a Liberal MP’s initial brush-off of the issue as evidence of indifference to a crisis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Angst around French language boils over in Quebec, as politicians warn of ‘decline’

MONTREAL — Perennial anxieties around the state of the French language in… Continue reading

Numuch Keitlah, left, and Jake Thomas, centre, participate in a Coastal Nations search and rescue exercise off the coast of Vancouver Island in this undated handout photo. The recently operational Coastal Nations Coast Guard Auxiliary has more than 50 members from five Indigenous territories who are trained in marine search and rescue. They are on call day and night to respond to emergencies along some of B.C.’s most rugged and remote coastal areas. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Jordan Wilson *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Canada’s first Indigenous-led coast guard auxiliary patrols B.C.’s rugged coast

VICTORIA — The winds were gusting at 110 kilometres per hour and… Continue reading

Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet has sponsored the VanVleet Court at the BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford, Ill. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Fred VanVleet signs four-year, US$85-million deal with Toronto Raptors

TORONTO — Fred VanVleet, one of the most coveted players in free… Continue reading

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML
‘Hardship is not a new thing:’ Nunavut fights COVID-19 as cases continue to rise

IQALUIT — It has been just over two weeks since Nunavut declared… Continue reading

Pedestrians walk past Pfizer world headquarters in New York on Monday Nov. 9, 2020. Despite recent optimism over reported results from COVID-19 vaccine trials,<br>Two companies, Pfizer and Moderna, have recently announced they're developed COVID-19 vaccines that are 95 per cent effective. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Bebeto Matthews
A long way from lab bench to bedside: Virus experts urge COVID-19 vaccine caution

Despite recent optimism over reported results from COVID-19 vaccine trials, virologists say… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
After COVID-related transplant delays, 16-year-old N.S. girl gets lung transplant

‘This is the difficult time now of seeing Tahlia in ICU hooked up to 15 IVs and sedated’

Most Read