Opposing views to closure of dispatch centre

An Associated Ambulance official and Rimbey’s fire chief have opposing views

An Associated Ambulance official and Rimbey’s fire chief have opposing views about the possible closure of Red Deer’s ambulance dispatch centre.

Bigger is not necessarily better, says Fire Chief John Weisgerber, who added consolidating all ambulance dispatch centres into three centralized locations is a “stupid idea.”

“The bigger it gets, the worse it gets.”

Weisgerber foresees problems occurring if the call centre is closed. “It will increase costs and when all the calls are re-routed it could cause delays that simply wouldn’t happen otherwise.”

The Rimbey fire chief has spoken out against firemen acting as first responders in injury accidents He said the number of calls have slowed down in the last few months.

“It’s kind of cut back since I put up such a fuss,” he said. “But we still go. We kind of have to. We want to help out and do what we can.”

Speaking out is the only way to get the government’s attention, he said.

“They will just keep dumping off the responsibilities.”

However, Paul Kennedy, director of operations for Associated Ambulance, agrees the Red Deer dispatch centre has done a good job, but he is in favour of provincially consolidated dispatch centres.

“By having consolidated dispatch centres in the province every dispatch centre can see where every ambulance is, therefore getting the closest available unit to respond to all calls,” he said.

“It is the best way to go — dispatch consolidation,” he said. “It is the best use of all available resources within the province.”

He said because Red Deer dispatch centre takes calls for Sylvan Lake and Rimbey ambulances (both owned by Associated Ambulance), no one else can see where they are on the screen.

“If an Edmonton unit is in Rimbey and a call comes in, that unit can take the call. The whole key is to get an ambulance on call as quickly as possible. Right now it is a piecemeal way of doing it. Centralizing dispatch will make it easier and will be a more efficient way to track ambulances across the province.”

A recommendation to proceed with the province’s plan to consolidate all ambulance dispatch centres into Edmonton, Calgary and, perhaps, a northern site has been included in a report recently released by the Health Quality Council of Alberta.