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Alberta mayors 'shocked and disappointed' with consolidation decision

Last Updated Oct 20, 2020 at 5:29 pm MDT

(Tom Ross - 660NEWS)

Mayors from our region, Red Deer, Calgary, and Lethbridge vow to continue the fight against the consolidation of EMS dispatch services.

They expressed their shock and disappointment with Health Minister Tyler Shandro’s Oct. 16 letter saying Alberta plans to move forward with the proposal.

READ MORE: Province to move ahead with plan to centralize EMS dispatch services

At a video conference on Oct. 20, the mayors called the decision irresponsible and said additional delays to emergency care will occur.

Mayor Don Scott said the decision directly threatens the health and safety of Wood Buffalo residents and Albertans.

“The rationale to move forward with consolidation demonstrates a decision based on ideology, not intellect. Our region is larger than the province of Nova Scotia and we consistently dispatch an ambulance faster than AHS [and] we have the data to prove it.”

He added the next closest ambulance is in Lac La Biche, Alta., about three and a half hours away.

“Consolidation will restrict our ability to send an additional ambulance when our four ambulance units are on medical calls. Consolidation will mean that AHS sends an ambulance from Lac La Biche as opposed to our fire hall, which is just minutes away.”

Mayor Scott said municipal EMS dispatch and verify addresses consistently faster than AHS.

Mayor Don Scott also said consolidation puts remote, First Nations communities, and Métis settlements at risk.

He referenced Shandro’s letter, which said the move will improve dispatches to remote, rural, and Indigenous communities.

“I am calling on Minister Shandro to release the details of exactly how he guarantees that our mutual-aid agreements and neighbouring First Nations and Métis communities will not be impacted. We need to understand precisely how AHS will guarantee that these crucial agreements remain intact, and not impacted by consolidation.”

Mayor Scott said he fails to understand how Shandro can make the guarantee adding Indigenous leaders are also against consolidation.

He said Minister Shandro ‘cherry-picked’ data to justify integrated services.

When the RMWB asked AHS for their region-centric data, but only received Calgary-based data.

“AHS admitted in our meeting that the consolidation plan was from 11 years ago. I can’t think of any 11-year plan, let alone an 11-month plan for health care that is still relevant.”

At their Sept. 24 meeting with the Health Minister, Mayor Scott said Shandro told the delegation the move was not about cost-savings.

READ MORE: Mayors, fire chiefs meet with Health Minister Shandro in Edmonton

“He stated money is not a consideration of this government, when it comes to response times. Hours later, in a statement released to media, he said consolidation would save money, which would be reinvested in the health care system. Minister Shandro continues to send mixed messages. Is it about the money or not? I believe it should be about patient health and patient outcomes.”

The mayors insist the government of Alberta provide their data showing response times will improve through consolidation.

Wood Buffalo would lose four local staff members as well as their local knowledge.

Red Deer will lose 10 staff, Calgary as many as 45, and another 10 in Lethbridge.

Mayor Scott said four previous Health Ministers under different governments overturned similar consolidation proposals.

The mayors made a direct appeal to Premier Jason Kenney and the Cabinet to overturn the decision.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he previously raised the issue with the Premier, who said he would look into the matter.

If approved, consolidation would come into effect on Jan. 4, 2021.