May 17th, 2024

Ambulance dispatch out of city’s hands

By Tim Kalinowski on January 13, 2021.

Herald file photo by Ian Martens An ambulance crew works at a call downtown, as the City fought to retain local integrated EMS Dispatch in Lethbridge. @IMartensHerald


The City of Lethbridge is no longer dispatching local ambulance service after Alberta Health Services took over on Tuesday.

“They flipped the switch today, and our units are being dispatched out of Calgary,” confirmed Lethbridge Chief of Fire and EMS Marc Rathwell.

“What we need to monitor now is sort of trending. If there is a major problem, we will see right away and work with our AHS counterparts to get that fixed. We want to see the trending. We know our dispatch did things differently than what their group does; so we want to make sure any of those issues between the two groups -  that we can get those resolved so we can keep this as smooth and as easy as possible.”

Rathwell said despite his disappointment with the AHS decision it is now incumbent on he and his members to try to find a way forward that is in the best interests of the community.

“We understand there will always be friction in a relationship,” stated Rathwell when asked about the debates and discussion leading up to the AHS handover this week. “I think any relationship there are those pieces, and it all about the communication in between to continue to work together. Our goal, at the end of the day, is to take care of our citizens, and their goal is the same. We have that commonality, and all of those pieces we will work out together to make sure that works.”

Rathwell said besides monitoring how AHS is handling EMS dispatch in Lethbridge, he must also now turn his mind toward the future of the service itself. Will Lethbridge continue with an integrated Fire and Emergency Medical Service going forward or come up with a different model now the EMS is not being dispatched in an integrated fashion locally?

“We don’t know what that model for the city looks like down the road yet,” he admitted, “and that is something we have presented to council on. As we get further down the road, we will see what works and what doesn’t, and what is best for the city.”

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