Alberta NDP Calls Out Province Over Handling Of RMWB’s EMS Dispatch Service, Local MLAs Share Thoughts on Situation

The Alberta NDP is calling out the provincial government over their handling of EMS dispatch service in the RMWB.

Wood Buffalo council met on Tuesday where they approved having the local emergency communications centre refuse to transfer medical 9-1-1 calls to Alberta Health Services’ provincial centres.

This decision was made due to Regional Emergency Services needing to intervene in 20 per cent of calls since AHS took over in mid-January.

NDP’s Health Critic David Shepherd tells Mix News this situation was made because the government refused to listen to legitimate concerns from the RMWB.

“They’ve been forced into a position where obviously the UCP government is unwilling to listen and we’ve seen what it takes to get this government to even consider backing down, even a bit.”

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

Council’s decision was made despite legal services still looking into whether they could face any repercussions.

Mayor Don Scott has personally challenged the government to remove him, claiming this decision was made with the intention of ensuring residents across the region get the help they need as quickly as possible.

“It would be an extreme move on their part to anyway try to usurp the authority of council,” added Shepherd.

This isn’t the first attempt AHS has tried to consolidate local EMS dispatch service. Requests were made to previous provincial governments, however, they were turned down.

Shepherd noted the NDP government, which was in power from 2015 to 2019, didn’t believe the provincial system would improve the safety of Albertans.

“When AHS brought this proposal to then Minister [Sarah] Hoffman she asked them to provide the evidence for the decision that this would improve care and would not impact response times, she was not satisfied with what AHS presented.”

Local MLA’s Share Thoughts

Tany Yao, MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, says the decision caught him off guard, however, he understands why council went in this direction.

He believes recent incidents that caused delays may be growing pains, though AHS’s response to them didn’t satisfy all of his concerns.

Yao, who used to be a firefighter and paramedic, says he plans on speaking with members of the province to better explain the region’s reasoning behind the decision.

“I understand the issue very intimately because of my previous experience in this field, so my job is to at least explain our local government’s decision making and try and find some satisfactory result for all this.”

Laila Goodridge, MLA for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche, notes she’s concerned over the ‘gridlock’ and hopes the RMWB and AHS can find a solution.

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