By Jensen, Randy on October 14, 2020.
A press release sent out by Alberta Health on Tuesday seems to confirm the fact that Alberta Health is planning to go ahead and consolidate local EMS dispatch in Lethbridge, Red Deer, the RM of Wood Buffalo and Calgary.
While representing one quick line in a release which deals mainly with the province’s plan to cut 11,000 health-care jobs, nonetheless Health Minister Tyler Shandro’s office stated, referencing the Ernst and Young review completed earlier this year, “Initiatives stemming from the review’s recommendations underway include: Moving forward with virtual care options,” and, “Consolidating regional dispatch operations.”
Spearman said this statement echoes what he has heard from AHS since July, but it would not stop Lethbridge and other communities affected from advocating fiercely to maintain local EMS dispatch. Representatives from the four communities would once again be meeting with Shandro’s office on Oct. 22, he confirmed.
“They haven’t changed their minds, and we will continue to put the pressure on,” Spearman said. “We will continue to ask our local MLAs to advocate for citizens of Lethbridge and the areas they represent in the southwest. We maintain patient outcomes will suffer, and, to date, neither the Health Minister nor anybody in AHS has given us any information that would be contrary to that point of view.”
Fire Chief Marc Rathwell did concede this type of statement continues to be a bit frustrating for him personally as AHS representatives have continued to refuse to meet with local officials to discuss how local dispatch saves lives, and how the Fire and EMS side of the department works as one integrated unit to achieve better patient outcomes and save the provincial government money at the end of the day.
“When you look at it globally, and at what all the other communities have been doing, long before AHS came into this business we have had these operational efficiencies and we have been saving our taxpayers lots of money,” he said. “We haven’t had a lot of collaborative discussions and communication with them. We have had directives from them. We have had this is what the transition will be. We have certainly not had something where we have sat down to look at it from our community’s perspective. It is always just from theirs. There has been no collaborative work. There has been no communication. We really implore them to do more of that. We would really like to sit down and talk with the AHS folks when we are trying to work through these concerns and issues.”
Responding to Shandro’s handling of the dispatch question in light of the massive cuts to health care announced on Tuesday, Lethbridge-West MLA and Official Opposition Finance Critic Shannon Phillips said it is the Kenney government’s intent to sow chaos in the health-care system in order to justify their privatization agenda no matter who it hurts, both patients and the families who rely on the jobs they have to pay their bills and mortgages.
“I think it is very clear there was never any discussion coming from this health minister, or any indications, he was listening to this local community,” the Lethbridge-West MLA said. “It is also very difficult to trust anything that does come out of his mouth. This is a group of people (in the UCP) who think they have a god-given right to govern this province, and there will be no consequences for their negative actions.
“Secondly, the chaos is the point in the health-care system. This is a group of people whose ideology has told them they want to introduce more private, for-profit elements. They want to copy the disastrous failure of American-style health care south of the border that has just been giving us an ongoing horror show of what not to do with a health-care system.”
Lethbridge-East MLA Nathan Neudorf said he was under the impression nothing had been decided yet by Shandro, despite the statement released on Tuesday, with regard to local EMS dispatch. He also referenced Shandro’s statement that no frontline workers would be cut from the provincial health-care system, and these impending cuts would not affect patient outcomes.
“The Alberta government is not cutting EMS dispatch services,” said Neudorf in a statement released to local media. “While having Lethbridge retain its integrated EMS dispatch is something that I see value in and have continued to advocate for to the minister of health, the AHS announcement today provided no new information on EMS dispatch.
“Minister Shandro committed to review the information provided by the mayor of Lethbridge and others, and he’s currently doing that. The review implementation plan announced today will not impact patient care and will instead allow for almost $600 million to be used where it is needed most. We’re taking the first steps to implement the AHS review that we promised in the last election campaign. The goal is to make the system more efficient, mainly by contracting services with public funding, where that can improve system performance and value for money.”
“There’s no cut to Alberta’s health care,” Neudorf added. “AHS’s first concern is patient care and pandemic response; there is no reduction in the health-care budget and any savings will be reinvested into health care. As always, we remain fully committed to continuing to review and improve the financial sustainability of AHS. This is why I have sought and continue to advocate on behalf of Lethbridge with the goal of obtaining the best possible outcomes for Lethbridge and area.”
Phillips suggested anyone who believed that narrative from Shandro ought to do a little more digging to discover the truth.
“Alberta has a jobs crisis,” said Phillips, “And we are going into the second wave of a pandemic. So the response from Jason Kenney and his disgraced Health Minister, Tyler Shandro, is to announce plans to introduce more chaos into the health-care system, and more job losses – some 11,000 people will be losing their employment. Some of them will be nurses and other frontline workers. They sent a letter to the nurse’s union Tuesday morning detailing positions that would be lost. It is also people who worked in food services, laundry, lab testing, orderlies, hospital cleaning and maintenance. These are the kinds of folks that have kept us safe through the pandemic. And a lot of these jobs will be lost out of smaller centres.”
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