Following a recent decision by the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) to attempt opting out of centralized EMS dispatch, City Council today directed the City Manager to gather further information to inform any possible actions for Lethbridge moving forward.
The items to be explored include:
- possibility of the City of Lethbridge taking similar action as RMWB and opting out of centralized dispatch
- determining if it would be advantageous to lend Lethbridge's support to the RMWB legal case
- monitoring future legal proceedings between Alberta Health Services (AHS) and RMWB
The City of Lethbridge has been united with RMWB, the City of Calgary and the City of Red Deer, in advocating to retain local EMS dispatch services since last August when AHS made the decision to centralize. In Lethbridge, the transition from local to centralized dispatch took place on January 12, 2021. All calls coming into Lethbridge's 911 Centre that require an ambulance are now transferred to Calgary in order for that ambulance to be dispatched.
"Our goal always has been and always will be to provide the highest and most efficient standard of care to those requiring emergency services," says Mayor Chris Spearman. "For months we had identified the risks associated with this new model and raised those concerns with both AHS and the Government of Alberta. We still have not had meaningful conversations and resolutions to many of those issues. Given the seriousness of this issue, we need to continue to look at all options available in order to protect the safety of our residents and our emergency crews."
Four previous Health Ministers have refused the proposal to centralize EMS dispatch, understanding the efficiencies and effectiveness of a fully integrated Fire and Emergency Services system, including local dispatch.
All four municipalities going through this transition have experience challenges and issues. Locally, addresses have been incorrectly relayed to EMS crews on several occasions causing delays in response times. There have also been incidences where Fire Medical First Responders are not being used efficiently because we are not given notification from AHS dispatch that they are required. This significantly reduces the effectiveness of the integrated Fire and Emergency Services system.
For more information on the challenges this change presents to the residents of southern Alberta, visit www.lethbridge.ca/emsdispatch.