Mayor Tara Veer was joined by three other Alberta mayors, including Calgary’s Neheed Nenshi, in a Zoom press conference on Monday to implore Alberta Premier Jason Kenney to stop the change to consolidated ambulance dispatch, which is slated to start on Tuesday. (Screenshot by Advocate staff).

Mayor Tara Veer was joined by three other Alberta mayors, including Calgary’s Neheed Nenshi, in a Zoom press conference on Monday to implore Alberta Premier Jason Kenney to stop the change to consolidated ambulance dispatch, which is slated to start on Tuesday. (Screenshot by Advocate staff).

Red Deer Mayor makes last-minute appeal to a premier, who has ignored municipal offers to preserve local ambulance dispatch

‘Unfortunately the province is no longer engaging with us,’ says Veer

The provincial government seems willing to sacrifice some Albertan lives by stubbornly moving ahead to consolidate ambulance dispatch, said four Alberta mayors on Monday.

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer joined with three other Alberta mayors — Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi, Lethbridge’s Chris Spearman, and Don Scott of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo — to “implore” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney to prevent ambulance dispatch from being separated from local fire dispatch on Tuesday.

In Red Deer, Veer said fire-medics show up first at 40 per cent of emergency calls. Often they can arrive sooner when ambulances are busy waiting at hospitals with patients who need to get bed, or responding to out-of city calls.

But under the new system, fire medics could be sitting in their station unaware that a person in distress is a five-minute drive away — because they will not have been made aware of the 911 call that was routed to the Calgary ambulance dispatch centre, said Veer.

Study after study has shown that integrated fire-ambulance dispatch saves lives, added Veer, who made a strong appeal to the Premier, via Zoom, along with the other three mayors.

If the provincial government is no longer acting for Albertans, or willing to work in partnership with municipalities, “what is the future?” asked Veer. “What other changes or cuts can we expect?

Related:

-Kenney remains silent

-City offers to pay for service

“There is still time to do the right thing,” and prevent the change to ambulance dispatching, added Veer.

Spearman said the health minister “is not listening to Albertans,” or acting in their best interest, so the premier must either overrule or replace him.

Local ambulance dispatch is slated to be lost in Red Deer and other Central Alberta communities on Tuesday when the province “flips the switch” and starts to forward local 911 calls to a central dispatch in Calgary.

The four mayors urged the premier to stop consolidation as similar changes have cost lives, and worsened emergency response and care in B.C. and Ontario.

“Why in the world would he make this change now,” in the middle of a pandemic, asked Nenshi, who called it “unconscionable.”

He suggested it’s a provincial power play — that the government is intent in “seizing control of this one piece of the health care system,” even though experts have shown the change will degrade a service that saves lives.

Nenshi revealed that his father’s life was saved by fire-medics who arrived before the ambulance, “and he lived to see his second granddaughter being born and his son sworn in as mayor…. This is no small thing.”

The annual savings to consolidate Alberta’s seven dispatch centres into three is $5.7 million. The four municipalities have already offered Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro to chip in and cover this cost.

But neither Shandro, nor Premier Kenney, who was asked by municipalities to intervene, has responded to the municipalities’ offer.

The mayors said experts found consolidating Alberta’s ambulance dispatch will ruin an integrated model that was held up as a best-practice model around the globe.

In Red Deer, ambulance and fire dispatchers now operate in the same space and handle 911 calls from all of central Alberta. They can easily communicate and decide which kind of first response to deploy to produce the best result.

Red Deer employs fire-medics are trained to respond in any kind of emergency.

Plans to consolidate ambulance dispatch in only a few centres had been discussed by government for a decade.

The mayors noted plans were dropped by four previous health ministers once municipalities presented evidence that local ambulance dispatch systems, when integrated with fire dispatch, save lives.

If the change goes ahead this time, municipalities will have no choice but to try to work out local transition protocols to try to mitigate the danger as much as possible, said Veer.

Scott said it will be “catastrophic” for Wood Buffalo, because of the distance between remote communities.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kyla Gibson with her boyfriend Gavin Hardy. (Photo used with permission)
Sylvan Lake couple lose ‘fur babies’ to house fire

‘They were our world and nothing will ever replace them,’ Kyla Gibson said of her three pets

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported an additional 456 COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Five new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone, two in Red Deer

Province reports 456 new cases of COVID-19

Businesses are getting creative to keep cash flowing. (File photo)
Central Albertan lobbying government to help those affected by CERB repayments

Catherine Hay says she received a letter in November saying she had to completely repay the benefit

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19.  (File photo)
750 new COVID-19 cases identified in Alberta Sunday

Central zone currently has 1,182 active cases of the virus

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

(Thesendboys/Instagram)
Video of man doing backflip off Vancouver bridge draws police condemnation

Group says in Instagram story that they ‘don’t do it for the clout’

Toronto’s Mass Vaccination Clinic is shown on Sunday January 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Canadian malls, conference centres, hotels offer up space for COVID vaccination centres

Commercial real estate association REALPAC said that a similar initiative was seeing success in the U.K.

Kamala Harris and Joe Biden are sworn into office on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)
Joe Biden has been sworn in as the 46th president of the United States

About 25,000 National Guard members have been dispatched to Washington

A memorial for the fatal bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos hockey team at the intersection of Highways 35 and 335 near Tisdale, Tuesday, October 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards
‘End of the road:’ Truck driver in Humboldt Broncos crash awaits deportation decision

Sidhu was sentenced almost two years ago to eight years after pleading guilty to dangerous driving

In this March 28, 2017, file photo, a dump truck hauls coal at Contura Energy’s Eagle Butte Mine near Gillette, Wyo. Public opposition to the Alberta government’s plans to expand coal mining in the Rocky Mountains appears to be growing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mead Gruver, File
Alberta cancels coal leases, pauses future sales, as opposition increases

New Democrat environment critic Marlin Schmidt welcomed the suspension

File photo
Wetaskiwin Crime Reduction Unit recovers valuable stolen property

Property valued at over $50,000 recovered by Wetaskiwin Crime Reduction Unit.

In this March 28, 2017, file photo, a dump truck hauls coal at Contura Energy’s Eagle Butte Mine near Gillette, Wyo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mead Gruver, File)
First Nations seek to intervene in court challenge of coal policy removal

Bearspaw, Ermineskin and Whitefish First Nations are among those looking to intervene

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau vows to keep up the fight to sway U.S. on merits of Keystone XL pipeline

Canada’s pitch to the Biden team has framed Keystone XL as a more environmentally friendly project than original

Most Read