May 25th, 2024

Special meeting of council set for Monday on EMS consolidation

By Herald on September 24, 2021.

Herald file photo - 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.

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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I would hope that the Councillors would support this important action to take back the dispatching of our paramedics to local dispatch staff who know the area, know locations by name, know the frequent flyers and are the only dispatch system that should be in place.
I have already seen issues with the Alberta central dispatch center sending EMS to wrong addresses, with two showing up a one location, one from Picture Butte, just to find out it was the wrong location downtown, issues finding injured people in the coulees off of the trails and even one ambulance driving around downtown, lights and sirens for 11 minutes trying to find the site where the patient was.
Someone relying on tech 150 miles away, with no knowledge of the city is a bad idea and I have also heard of our ambulances being sent to other areas outside the County, then having to go to Calgary, leaving us short when another area would have been a better choice.
This system was in place in other areas for almost 10 years and the issues where never acknowledged by AHS/AB government, issues that were brought up but ignored and it was been suggested they caused loss of life! But of course this government wants to privatize EMS and the hospitals, ignoring the issues that plague other provinces and states that have private systems in place. The US is seeing hundreds of hospitals either closed or in bankruptcy from COVID after not being able to make money from surgeries, and if you didn’t have healthcare care insurance, you didn’t get into many. Or you were driven across large cities, passing several hospitals because you didn’t have insurance and had to go one of the few public hospitals.
Is that what you want for Alberta?
As usual, this government ignored the negative data, and forced a failed system on other areas, like Lethbridge, who did not want to be a part of it. So much for democracy!
Lethbridge had an excellent joint Fire/EMS service in place that gave our citizens the highest level of services, but our great strong armed, provincial government ruined it!
They also ignored all the drug dealers on the streets and the illegal consumption sites, one of which saw 3 fatal overdoses in a short period and did not support police in their efforts for enforce laws that were needed to reduce numbers! The tail wags the dog still!
I truly believe that any Councillor that does not support this should not be re-elected !
I fully support the Mayor on this one and thank him that he continues to perform his duties, even though his term is only a few weeks before ending!!
Thank you . . . You could have just as easily sat back and coasted!

Last edited 2 years ago by ewingbt

We need the UCP to be disconnected from any decisions concerning the Health Care System (Amongest other things).
As with most of their budgetary decisions (I call them outright blunders), their attempts to push the AHS toward further privatisation (By hook or by crook….mostly crook) simply show what a mistake that was/is/will be.