Dispatch deal near?

A proposal from the province could be a game changer in the ongoing fight to keep regional ambulance dispatch in Red Deer.

A proposal from the province could be a game changer in the ongoing fight to keep regional ambulance dispatch in Red Deer.

The City of Red Deer announced late Friday evening it “may retain ambulance dispatch” after the provincial government indicated it has a plan to put forward to the mayors of Red Deer, Lethbridge, Peace River and Fort McMurray sometime before the end of the month.

Alberta’s original plans called for the centralization of ambulance dispatch services to three locations, meaning Red Deer would be served by the Calgary dispatch service in the future.

For Mayor Tara Veer, talk of a new proposal illustrates a step in the right direction.

“I was pleased to hear the province is entertaining some reconsideration of their intent of consolidation. I’m also cautiously optimistic that we’ll be able to come up with a workable solution,” Veer said on Saturday.

Veer has no other details about what the proposal might entail as of yet.

She heard about the forthcoming proposal from a Friday meeting with Cal Dallas, the MLA for Red Deer South and the province’s International and Intergovernmental Relations minister.

Dallas told her the city could soon expect a call from Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne and Veer said she is on standby, waiting to set up that meeting.

“The only indication about the proposal we’ve been given is that there is a strong possibility Red Deer may be able to retain some aspects of regional ambulance dispatch. Specifics as to what that may entail will have to wait for the meeting with Minister Horne,” Veer said.

The local emergency service provides ambulance and fire service to an estimated 320,000 regional citizens each year. The city provides fire dispatch to 70 municipalities and ambulance dispatch to eight municipalities.

“Ambulance dispatch is essential to our ability to provide a strong, integrated fire and ambulance and emergency response and we’ve been consistent in that message and we will continue to be resolute in that message,” Veer said. “We’ve had an ongoing working relationship with the government in terms of expressing our concerns and my hope is that we’ll come up with an alternative to what their original intent was in consolidation.”

Horne was in Red Deer on Jan. 23 and said discussions were still underway at the time but that they were looking at various options after a number of other municipalities with integrated emergency services asked him to reconsider the decision as well.

The call to centralize ambulance dispatch stemmed from recommendations in a Health Quality Council of Alberta report in early March 2013 related to the 911 system and overall emergency management system.