‘This health minister seems to get away with a lot’: Nenshi fires back in dispatch dispute

CALGARY — The ongoing dispute over the Alberta government’s decision to consolidate EMS dispatch continues with the mayors of four communities, including Calgary, set to meet and respond to the move.

The province made the decision on Friday to go forward with plans to centralize 911 dispatch in Calgary, Red Deer, Lethbridge and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (Fort McMurray).  

Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who has been a very vocal opponent to the move, believes discussions with the province were a wasted effort as it appears the decision had already been made.

“I was pretty shocking when the minister of health sends a Friday afternoon letter when there is a meeting booked with all the MLAs this week,” Nenshi said Monday. “This is very clear, they already had this plan. They didn’t care what the facts were, they didn’t care what the data was and they made a decision that’s endangering people’s lives.”

The four communities currently run their own dispatch centres but will soon join others across Alberta that have been under provincial control for a decade.

The move only affects ambulance dispatch, not police or firefighters, and is expected to save the province millions of dollars every year.

Nenshi wants Calgary to keep control of its ambulance dispatch, saying things should be operated at a local level because it allows help to get to patients faster.

In a letter to the four mayors, Health Minister Tyler Shandro rejected any notion consolidating 911 dispatch is an unwanted risk or step into the unknown, citing similar models in Canadian provinces and in the U.K., Australia and New Zealand.

Nenshi accuses the minister of ignoring crucial evidence in making his decision. The mayor didn’t mince words when laying out what he hopes to see from the government moving forward.

“We can hope the premier can call his health minister to account but this health minister seems to get away with a lot.”

The four mayors are scheduled to hold a joint news conference Tuesday afternoon.

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