Alberta mayors: We will ‘go to the wall’ to oppose EMS dispatch centralization

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It may not seem like a big deal whether EMS is dispatched locally or by a centralized service. AHS maintains there will be no additional time added to when an ambulance arrives on the scene (though we have not seen the data to prove this, and our data shows local dispatch is faster). Our local dispatch centres exceed AHS dispatch standards while AHS does not even meet their own standard. However, in addition to dispatch delays, there will be an impact on our integrated service model. The co-ordination and, ultimately, the response times for more complicated emergency calls that require other emergency services will be fragmented. In Calgary alone, there are 15,000 calls annually that require a multi-service response.

In the integrated service model, firemedics often arrive sooner than AHS ambulances and provide lifesaving medical treatment before the ambulance arrives. In Calgary, fire units arrive first 50 per cent of the time, in Red Deer 40 per cent of the time, in the RMWB 60 per cent of the time, and in Lethbridge 19 per cent of the time. Under the proposed AHS model, the Advanced Life Support firemedics wouldn’t be dispatched to medical calls immediately or at all. It makes no sense for trained firemedics to remain at the station when they could be providing timely lifesaving patient care.  

Under the AHS centralized model, rather than a municipal dispatcher sending the closest emergency response unit, a municipal dispatcher would transfer the call to an AHS dispatcher who would send EMS, and then the AHS dispatcher would have to contact the municipal dispatcher again if Fire is needed. This adds precious and unnecessary time to calls and raises the risk of emergency calls being dropped.

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