The Government of Alberta is addressing the lack of ambulance care in the province – just not for Lacombe or Red Deer.
Lacombe Councillor Chris Ross said he kind of understood why Lacombe didn’t receive a new unit, considering their current infrastructure only can accommodate two units but he did not understand why Red Deer did not receive any added service other than a further investment in the Community Paramedic program.
“Red Deer has, in my opinion, sufficient infrastructure that would have allowed for an increase in units,” he said. “It is disappointing. Calgary got 10 more, Grand Prairie got one more and Medicine Hat got one more.
“Unfortunately Red Deer has some issues with the opioid crisis and the demands on the Red Deer Regional Hospital are very patient-transfer driven. It is disappointing.”
Earlier this year, Ross made a plea to the Government for more ambulance care in the region to help combat rising wait times for emergency care.
At the time, Ross’s concern was that Lacombe’s two ambulances were being flexed to Red Deer and other regions which too often resulted in longer wait times for Lacombe emergency situations.
“Fifty-three per cent of the calls that Lacombe EMS is responding to — out of a total of 3,345 calls in — are being made to outside of Lacombe,” Ross said in a story on Oct. 2nd, 2018. “Twenty-six per cent of those calls — 880 calls — are specifically in Red Deer.
“That is a real concern of mine that 675 times in 12 months that units (ambulances) are being flexed for service into Lacombe while we are going into Red Deer 880 times.”
The solution he suggested was that the City of Red Deer receive two more ambulances to cover their region.
Instead, the Province has awarded five new ambulances to Edmonton, 10 to Calgary, one to Grande Prairie, one to Medicine Hat and has expanded hours for Vilna, St. Paul, Westlock and Sylvan Lake.
To clarify, no new ambulances are being brought to Red Deer or Lacombe.
Ross said this current snubbing suggests Lacombe may need to look further into a new fire hall, which would create room for more units as well as solve other community issues regarding emergency services.
“In Lacombe, 25 per cent of our call volume is in Red Deer,” he said. “As a City Councillor, I maybe have to advocate more for different angles and work with Red Deer City Council to advocate more strongly for support.
“Central Alberta, other that the community paramedic program and expanded hours to Sylvan Lake, has been left out. It is discouraging.”
In a release, Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said the Province is taking action to strengthen emergency services.
“With more ambulances on the road and more paramedics ready to respond, Albertans will have improved access to emergency medical care when it matters,” she said.
When asked for further comment, the Ministers office said further stresses to EMS will be addressed as more funding becomes available.
“This funding begins to address EMS pressures; we have identified additional priorities that will be addressed as more funding becomes available including new station infrastructure and additional front-line resources,” an email from the Minister’s office stated.