By Herald on October 16, 2020.
Minister of Health Tyler Shandro will not intervene in an Alberta Health Services decision to end its local EMS dispatch contracts in Lethbridge, Calgary, Wood Buffalo and Red Deer.
“My decision is not to overturn the AHS decision,” he writes, “and I look forward to supporting them and your municipalities during the transition to ensure that emergency health services can improve.”
In a five page letter sent to the mayors of all four affected communities on Friday, and then released publicly later in the afternoon, Shandro outlined the reasons for his decision not to intervene, as four former health ministers have done, in previous attempts to consolidate local EMS dispatch into the AHS regional system.
“You (the mayors) pointed out this decision has been suggested by AHS before, and each time the minister of the day has blocked it at the urging of municipal leaders,” he states. “You characterize this as successfully appealing based on the evidence, and suggest you expect the same outcome today. But I must judge by the evidence today, not in the past; and the plain fact is that dispatch and overall response times are similar across the province–and within AHS’ targets– in four cities that dispatch ambulances and in those dispatched by AHS. There is no reason to expect response times to change.”
Shandro goes on to state this is not a budgetary decision, but one made for the sake of efficiency in keeping with the best advice the province’s Chief Paramedic Darren Sandbeck has given him. He further states dispatch technology has evolved and, he believes, will be able to account for the integrated advantages of both ambulance and fire dispatch without the need to have someone physically “in the room” at the local EMS call centre.
Shandro also rejects the idea that local communities were not consulted on the AHS decision to end local dispatch contracts.
“First,” he says, “I must note ‘consultation’ does not equal veto. That simple fact has unfortunately been misconstrued. I note that it was stated at our meeting that Chief Sandbeck had seen that presentation you presented to me ‘hundreds of times.’”
Shandro goes on to state he feels everyone agreed they were fairly heard when representatives of the four communities met with him earlier this fall. He also rejected the idea this change represented “an unwarranted risk or a step into the unknown” for Lethbridge and all the other affected communities.
“I absolutely reject any such suggestion,” he says, before adding later: “It’s clear to me that consolidated EMS dispatch within AHS is the right decision for Albertans. I trust that the transition will occur seamlessly over the next few months.”
Mayor Chris Spearman sent out a statement on behalf of the mayors of all four communities affected by the decision.
“We are strongly opposed to this Friday afternoon announcement by Minister Shandro,” it reads, “conveniently delivered just as the first major winter storm blows into Southern Alberta. His letter contains many inaccuracies and we will address these, together, early next week.”
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A copy of the letter can found on the Herald’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/LethbridgeHerald