By Lethbridge Herald on December 16, 2020.
The City of Red Deer and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo have joined City of Lethbridge to formally offer the province to pay to keep EMS dispatch local in their respective communities.
The municipalities each receive funding annually from Alberta Health Services (AHS) to operate local ambulance dispatch through integrated municipal dispatch centres. By offering to pay for the services, municipalities would retain current emergency ambulance dispatch services at no cost to the province.
The Government of Alberta’s decision to consolidate ambulance dispatch is planned to take effect on Jan. 12 despite repeated requests by the municipalities to the province to reverse this decision. At this time, there has been no official response from Premier Jason Kenney on the offers to pay, or the formal request for the Premier to overturn AHS.
“We feel strongly that our integrated Fire and EMS System provides the best service to our residents, as efficiently as possible. So strongly, that we are willing to invest municipal funding to maintain local EMS dispatch and preserve our fully integrated system,” said Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman in a news release. “The loss of EMS dispatch in Lethbridge would come at a much higher cost to our community.
“We would need to invest millions to alter our system in order to maintain the current level of service, losing much of the efficiencies we have today. In a very challenging economic time, these are not easy decisions. I hope this commitment sends yet another strong message to the Provincial Government about how vitally important this is to our City.”
Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer said the province’s decision to consolidate ambulance dispatch will mean the degradation of emergency patient care for citizens in Red Deer and Central Alberta.
“We know there are people alive today in Red Deer because FireMedics responded before an ambulance in a life-and-death emergency medical call,” said Veer. “The City of Red Deer is prepared to fund ambulance dispatch locally in an effort to protect the health and safety of Red Deerians and Central Albertans in emergency circumstances.”
Wood Buffalo Mayor Don Scott added: “We understand that the provincial government is dealing with a public health emergency, and that managing the pandemic is a major focus at this time. We still need to ensure that this important issue does not fall to the sidelines.
“We have expressed to the Premier, our offer to pay for this service — stopping at nothing to keep EMS Dispatch within the region. Enabling us to pay for this service at $660,000 annually, will mitigate the threat that consolidation poses to our residents, oilsands operators, First Nations and MŽtis communities.”
The City of Calgary continues to advocate along with the municipalities of Red Deer, Lethbridge and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and all four Mayors remain resolute in their position that the province should continue to operate the four satellite dispatch centres.