“This Represents Loss of Life” Fire Chief Calls Out AHS Plan To Eliminate Local EMS Dispatch Site

The RMWB’s Fire Chief is calling out Alberta Health Services’ plan to remove the local EMS dispatch site.

Wood Buffalo’s site is one of four across the province, including in Calgary, Red Deer, and Lethbridge, who’ll be centralized into one of three provincial centres over the next five months.

Speaking on Fort McMurray Matters, Jody Butz stated the move will only be harmful to Wood Buffalo as response times would take a big hit.

In around 90 per cent of calls, local dispatchers send out ambulances around 48 seconds faster and verify addresses around 30 seconds quicker than their provincial counterparts.

“That loss of time absolutely represents loss of life and I can’t say that loud enough,” said Butz.

In a separate interview with Mix News, Alberta’s Health Minister Tyler Shandro claimed the provincial centres have a faster response time.

This isn’t the only concern as some highlighting how complex Wood Buffalo is.

The region includes several rural hamlets, while Fort McMurray has been split into different neighbourhoods which aren’t commonly known to the rest of the province.

Nowell Mullins, an RMWB 9-1-1 Dispatcher, says anyone outside of the region will have a tough time pinpointing exact locations.

“The majority of our calls do not happen within somebody’s home where it’s just an easy entry of an address into the system, a lot of it does come from local knowledge, knowing the landmarks and subdivisions, and having that visual knowledge is key as well.”

The municipality also recently shared an example as a provincial dispatcher last month nearly sent an ambulance to Cheecham Lake instead of Cheecham Village, which is around 40 km apart. An RMWB dispatcher quickly noticed the error and was able to send the ambulance to the right spot.

The rural communities will also be heavily impacted.

The RMWB has partnerships between Syncrude, Suncor, Canadian Natural Resources, and Husky Energy where they’ll send EMS crews to places like Janvier, Conklin, and Fort McKay when they’re emergencies as they’re much closer to the hamlets.

“This change would see Syncrude no longer being able to send an ambulance to a neighbouring oilsands site or the community of Fort McKay, they will be outside of that loop,” added Butz. “It’s our regional coordination that facilitates that response.”

The RMWB plans on advocating against the move before the full transition takes place in the next five months.

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