Alberta mayors gather in Red Deer to comment on consolidation of EMS dispatch

The mayors of Calgary, Red Deer, Lethbridge and Wood Buffalo are gathering in Red Deer on Tuesday to speak publicly about Alberta Health Services‘ decision to move forward with the consolidation of EMS dispatch services.

All four municipalities currently dispatch their own ambulances and fire services through local centres, but AHS announced a proposal to centralize those services in the summer.

AHS has said the changes will save the province more than $6 million per year and that callers to 911 will not notice any change, but mayors of the affected communities strongly oppose the idea, saying it will cost lives.

AHS has been running a dispatch system for the rest of the province since 2009.

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Read more: Alberta mayors, first responders voice concerns over EMS dispatch changes to health minister

On Friday, Alberta’s health minister released a letter he had written to the mayors of the affected municipalities, telling them he would not overturn AHS’ decision to integrate EMS dispatch services.

“I look forward to supporting (AHS) and your municipalities during the transition to ensure that emergency health services in your community can improve,” Tyler Shandro said.

Read more: Alberta health minister moves forward with changes to EMS dispatch despite opposition from mayors, first responders

Speaking with reporters on Monday, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he was surprised to see Shando’s letter.

“It was pretty shocking that the minister of health sent a Friday afternoon letter when there’s a meeting booked with all the MLAs this week, when we still hadn’t received, as of Friday, the date the health minister was theoretically making his decision,” Nenshi said.

“(It) is very clear that they already had this planned. 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.

“We can hope that the premier will call his health minister into account, though this health minister seems to get away with a lot.”

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On Tuesday, Nenshi will join Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman, Wood Buffalo Mayor Don Scott and Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer to give their thoughts on the decision to move forward with the amalgamation of dispatch services at a 3 p.m. news conference.

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