Alberta mayors meet Shandro to make the case against centralized ambulance dispatch

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Municipal Affairs Minister Tracey Allard and Alberta’s chief paramedic Darren Sandbeck were also at the meeting.

Calgary, Red Deer, Lethbridge and Wood Buffalo currently have the only remaining municipally run ambulance dispatch systems in the province. The rest of Alberta was consolidated into three AHS dispatch centres in 2009.

Multiple provincial governments in the decade since have looked at finishing up the centralization but decided against it. NDP Leader Rachel Notley told reporters in Lethbridge on Thursday that she and former NDP health minister Sarah Hoffman were among those who got the “pitch” on consolidation in 2016, but after reviewing the evidence, they said no.

In August, AHS announced the transition for the final municipalities would go ahead, and the mayors have been calling for Shandro to stop it ever since.

They’ve warned against changing local systems where EMS and fire departments have an integrated response. For Lethbridge and Calgary, that system also includes their local police departments.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi (left) and Wood Buffalo Mayor Don Scott (right) walk past the dome of the Alberta Legislature following a meeting with Minister of Health Tyler Shandro about Alberta Health Services' plans to consolidate EMS Dispatch, in Edmonton Thursday Sept. 24, 2020. The meeting was also attended by the mayors of Red Deer and Lethbridge. Photo by David Bloom
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi (left) and Wood Buffalo Mayor Don Scott (right) walk past the dome of the Alberta Legislature following a meeting with Minister of Health Tyler Shandro about Alberta Health Services’ plans to consolidate EMS Dispatch, in Edmonton Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. The meeting was also attended by the mayors of Red Deer and Lethbridge. Photo by David Bloom/Postmedia

Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services Deputy Chief Kelly L’Hirondelle said Thursday that he doesn’t want to disrupt a dispatch system “where police, fire and EMS literally sit next to each other on the same consoles.”

For Calgary, Nenshi said communication between EMS and Calgary Fire is crucial since firefighters are first on the scene of a medical emergency about half the time.

“The new system will mean that early response, that early life-saving response from firefighters, will no longer be available,” he said.

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