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Major technical issue reported as EMS consolidation began

Last Updated Feb 1, 2021 at 11:36 am MDT

Richard Hinse, Director of Calgary Community Standards, speaks to the media at city hall about their opposition to the province's proposal to centralize EMS dispatch services. Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. (PHOTO: Tom Ross - 660 NEWS)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – It’s been one week since ambulance service dispatch was consolidated in Alberta and there’s reportedly already been a major technical issue.

The province now uses Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) to send ambulances to calls, after a 911 caller tells the operator that they need paramedics. The system is supposed to be more streamlined, and divert 911 calls to different services in several Alberta cities.

Calgary 911 Director Richard Hines spoke to city council Monday saying that was not the case on Jan. 26, the very day Alberta Health Services (AHS) took over the dispatch.

Hines said that evening a 911 call was made describing a medical emergency and the dispatch centre put it through to AHS as per the new protocol.

However, they didn’t receive any acknowledgement or reply for about 10 minutes.

It was then they realized the call system was down and an ambulance was not sent to the emergency right away because of it.

“We advised them that we did not dispatch that fire service, they had to call Red Deer if they wanted to get that fire service,” said Hines. “About 11:22 (p.m.), we knew that CAD was fully down.”

WATCH: Mayors unite in opposition to EMS dispatch centralization

Mayor Naheed Nenshi responded saying he’s not surprised a technical issue like this happened.

“I’ve been warning for some time that AHS doesn’t feel like they’re ready. I understand they have a number of unfilled positions and I understand that a number of protocols that we’ve been asking for are just not in place.”

The mayors of Calgary, Lethbridge, Red Deer and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo have sternly opposed this plan since it was introduced last year.

The mayors have raised concerns that moving EMS dispatch out of the local call centres would reduce the quality of service, such as with dispatchers not being familiar with addresses and callers waiting as they have to be transferred back to other dispatchers.

Despite repeated calls to revisit the consolidation, the province moved ahead with the plan saying it was in the best interest of Albertans and will save millions of dollars per year.

Mayor Nenshi, along with counterparts from Red Deer, Lethbridge and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo will hold a press conference later on Monday to discuss the issue.