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RMWB continues to fight for local EMS dispatch following provincial consolidation

Photo courtesy Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

FORT MCMURRAY (660 NEWS) – The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo isn’t backing down when it comes to local Emergency Medical Services dispatch.

In January of this year, the region was transferred onto the province’s consolidated service.

Since then, according to Regional Fire Chief and Director of Emergency Management Jody Butz, there have been “numerous issues that put the health and safety of patients at a greater risk.”

Now, the RMWB has applied to Alberta Health for the municipality’s Emergency Communication Centre to be recognized as a dispatch centre under the Emergency Health Services Act.

“The Municipality’s Emergency Communication Centre (ECC) is well-positioned to provide EMS dispatch services for the Wood Buffalo region—and we provided this service locally from the 1970s,” said Butz in a press release.

“We will continue to pursue all avenues and options to reinstate a fully integrated local Fire and EMS dispatch service.”

Butz, along with Mayor Don Scott and other local representatives have been strongly advocating against the provincial consolidation since August 2020.

The Alberta government went ahead with the changes despite the push back from the RMWB, as well as the cities of Calgary, Red Deer, and Lethbridge.

RMWB Chief Administrative Officer Jamie Doyle said applying to have the local ECC recognized as a dispatch centre shows their continued commitment and that the health and safety of Wood Buffalo residents is the top priority.

“Since the Province implemented its one-size-fits-all approach to EMS dispatch in this region, we have witnessed the deterioration of ambulance dispatch services—and we have the evidence to prove it,” said Doyle.

“While we continue to communicate this and work with the Province and Alberta Health Services on a solution that recognizes the region’s unique needs, we have not seen adequate progress.”

According to the application that has been sent to the province, the consolidated EMS dispatch system has had a negative impact, including address and location errors and impacted response times.

The application states, “RMWB is confident that it has the resources, training, and local knowledge to provide the highest level of EMS dispatching within its region and that it can do so in a way that is cost effective and maintains the perceived benefits from a consolidated dispatch centre.”