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Wood Buffalo will dispatch EMS calls to province after Judge grants temporary injunction

Last Updated Feb 12, 2021 at 6:10 pm MDT

(CREDIT: Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo)

FORT MCMURRAY (660 NEWS) — A judge has granted an interim injunction that stops a northern Alberta municipality from withdrawing from the provincial ambulance dispatch service.

Justice Kent Davidson heard a request on Friday from the province seeking a court order to require the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo to resume transferring medical emergency calls to Alberta Health Services.

It comes days after Mayor Don Scott and council voted unanimously to stop transferring calls as the new service is putting patients at risk due to delays and confusion.

While it was disappointing news to hear, Scott says this will give them a chance to lay out all of the evidence in front of a judge.

“A judge is going to be exposed to all of our concerns at that hearing and it’s a real opportunity for us to get out the full detail of what’s happening,” Scott said.

Lawyers for the government suggested that the northern municipality was operating illegally by refusing to send 911 calls to provincial dispatch.

Scott says they made this decision to keep his community safe and is hearing strong support from his residents.

“I have certainly heard loud and clear that they’re supportive of this decision of council.

“The residents are going to be the winners if we have the best ambulance dispatch system, which is exactly what we’ve provided since 1979,” Scott added.

A lawyer representing Wood Buffalo said it was in the public interest for the municipality to keep handling emergency medical calls through its own dispatch centre, which already handles fire calls.

In a statement, Alberta Health Services and Alberta Health are, “pleased that the Court of Queen’s Bench has granted an injunction to ensure the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo resumes sending 911 medical calls to AHS EMS dispatch.

“We look forward to working with the municipality on a smooth transition.

“Our entire focus is on ensuring residents of Wood Buffalo get the care they need when they call 911. AHS EMS remains committed to working with the Regional Municipality to ensure patients continue to receive high-quality care.”

The interim injunction, which takes effect at noon Saturday, is to be in place until an application for a permanent order can be heard in March.

The province consolidated emergency medical dispatch services to save money and recently forced Red Deer, Calgary, Lethbridge, and Wood Buffalo to make the change despite their objections.

— with files from the Canadian Press.