By Herald on September 24, 2021.
Tim Kalinowski – Lethbridge Herald
Mayor Chris Spearman has called a Special Meeting of city council on Monday in order to request a formal review by the Alberta Ombudsman of the Kenney government’s decision to consolidate local EMS Dispatch.
“The City of Red Deer has decided to move forward with an application to the Alberta Ombudsman to address the decision of centralizing EMS Dispatch,” says Spearman, explaining his reasoning behind calling the Special Meeting. “The other cities of Wood Buffalo and Calgary will be joining Red Deer in that application to the Ombudsman. We are not having any city council meetings at the moment so I need to confer with my colleagues on Lethbridge city council. I think this is really a no-brainer, but I can’t unilaterally move forward as the mayor without getting an approval from my colleagues on council.” Spearman says he hopes council will vote to join Red Deer, Wood Buffalo and Calgary in making that application to the Ombudsman when it meets on Monday.
“This is a step separate and apart from what we have done previously in our arguments about EMS Dispatch, and our disagreement with the province, if you like,” he says. “Going to the Alberta Ombudsman and asking for him to review the issue is a new process; so I will be asking Lethbridge city council for Lethbridge to be part of that process with our other three partners.”
Anecdotally, Spearman says he has heard the problem with the availability of ambulances for local communities outside of Calgary and Edmonton has been growing worse for some time. Alberta Health Services has so far still not released the statistics it promised on how the decision to centralize dispatch is impacting local service levels.
Spearman is hoping the review by the Ombudsman will at least shake loose those statistics and address what he feels are the deficiencies that have occurred as a result of the Kenney government’s decision to consolidate EMS Dispatch.
“Due process hasn’t been followed, and all the evidence is that really the centralization hasn’t gone well,” Spearman states. “There are more and more communities complaining about the availability of ambulances and dispatch delays. Right now all the information is held by Alberta Health Services. They claim there is nothing wrong, but we see more communities concerned about EMS Dispatch, and it is time for a fair review, an independent review, of the decision that has been made so it can be corrected.
“One of our concerns is there hasn’t been the promised release of data by Alberta Health Services on the effectiveness of centralization, and each of our cities has been keeping track of the all the deficiencies that have occurred since centralization, and none of those have been addressed,” he says.
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