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Alberta mayors unified in opposition to centralizing EMS dispatch

Last Updated Sep 24, 2020 at 4:30 pm MDT

(PHOTO: Tom Ross - 660 NEWS)

EDMONTON (660 NEWS) — As the debate continues over a proposed plan by the province to centralize EMS dispatch services, a group of mayors met with the Minister of Health in Edmonton to voice their disapproval.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi has been particularly vocal about his problems with the plan. He believes it will result in longer response times and disrupt the ability for emergency crews to communicate fluidly.

Joined by his counterparts from Lethbridge, Red Deer, and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, the group spoke with Minister Tyler Shandro in the hopes they could convince him against the shift.

Following the meeting, the mayors talked to reporters and said they are in agreement.

“I couldn’t be prouder to be joined by my colleague-advocates,” said RM Wood Buffalo Mayor Don Scott.”They put out a fierce presentation that really presented the case for why the AHS proposal does not make sense.”

Scott said their projections indicate the AHS proposal will result in slower response times, and past efforts to do the same thing have been overturned for the same reason.

He also had a warning after speaking to other jurisdictions that had undergone this shift.

“We’ve talked to several mayors in several regions; they wish they had not made the transition.”

Nenshi shared a similar anecdote, but just among the areas directly around Calgary.

“It’s actually united all the municipalities, pretty much all around Alberta. In the Calgary region, for example, the board unanimously voted to oppose this change. That is nine communities that have been centralized under AHS and one that has not. And all of us said don’t do this.”

Nenshi said he has not heard from any leader that is in favour of the adjustment.

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer said they have worries about the province moving towards the decision too quickly, and they are looking for a reversal in order to avoid a “crisis.”

“There was substantial information to review, but we did indicate the time-sensitive nature of it.”

Shandro reportedly did not provide a timeline as to when he would make a decision on centralization, but the mayors were hopeful it would come soon.

Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman said that everyone agrees that the main issue here is patient outcomes, and does want to work together more closely with the municipalities and province.

“With the new ambulance system, it’s possible and frequent that ambulances are involved in inter-facility transfers between municipalities, tying up ambulances and making sure in that situation that there is a shortage of ambulances,” he said.

Nenshi added that, when looking specifically at Calgary, they rely on Calgary 911 services to maintain constant communication with callers and emergency services to ensure the response to scenes is appropriate.

While this is not necessarily the same situation for all other municipalities, they share the same feelings.

“You can’t get a piece of paper between us on this. We are absolutely united that this is about patients, it’s about life and death situations, and this is the wrong thing to do.”