Council to step up fight against dispatch consolidation

  • Nov. 6, 2013 5:04 p.m.

Red Deer City council voted unanimously on Monday to publically call on the province to nix its plans to consolidate emergency dispatch services to Calgary.

The move stemmed from a Notice of Motion brought forward by then City councillor Tara Veer last month.

This past spring, the Province announced plans to transfer dispatch services to Calgary by this fall, and the City opted to continue advocating for the status quo.

The decision to centralize ambulance dispatch came on the heels of a recommendation from the Health Quality Council of Alberta (HQCA) in March.

City officials have since met with MLAs and provincial representatives in a bid to convince them the dispatch service works best out of Red Deer.

“Since last spring when we were given notice that our dispatch service would be consolidated, (we) have advocated to retain the service within our regional dispatch model that renders local knowledge and expertise thereby decreasing the risk to our public and the City, and to ensure the high level of service provided to our citizens through an integrated response to fire and ambulance continues,” said Lisa Perkins, director of corporate transformation.

“The City of Red Deer is not alone in these concerns and we have received support from mid-sized cities in Alberta who have also expressed concerns (about) consolidation, and who have expressed in their letters that there is no compelling evidence that consolidation of ambulance dispatch to a couple of locations will provide better service to the citizens that we serve.”

Mayor Tara Veer said when the plans were announced last spring, the local MLAs worked for a delay of consolidation “For which we are grateful.

“But we have continued to remain strong in the opinion that regional ambulance dispatch was central for us,” she said. “I think that in light of the fact that other municipalities are speaking about the matter more formally, the government has left the door open a crack there.”

But clearly, it’s critical council ramp up its efforts to convince the province consolidation isn’t in the City’s best interests, she said.

Particularly since the province is continuing to work towards consolidation instead of actually responding to the City’s call to maintain regional ambulance dispatch, she said.

Ultimately, council agreed unanimously to support the Notice of Motion.

“I support it without a doubt,” said Councillor Buck Buchanan, noting that not just Red Deerians benefit from local dispatch, but many nearby communities do as well. “The health and safety of all the people in Alberta has to be priority one.”

Councillor Dianne Wyntjes agreed.

“When this issue affects not only the citizens of Red Deer but our regional base of some 300,000 citizens, I really think it’s a critical issue of us to take on,” she said.

Councillor Paul Harris said it’s really important to have the Notice of Motion in place as it contains that ‘advocacy’ piece. “We have had issues in the past in our community where people don’t wake up to an issue until it’s already on their front door,” he said. “I wouldn’t want this to be one of those issues where it’s too late, and then they look to our council and say ‘Why were you asleep at the switch?’

“So it’s important for us to pass this resolution and make sure we have an advocacy strategy around it for our citizens so they can speak out with their MLAs.”

Councillor Tanya Handley said she was speaking with a local firefighter about the issue, and he stressed how important it was for people who dispatch to know local landmarks.

“It could also be a child. A child knows a spray park. A child knows a school and things like that. This takes it back to our most vulnerable citizens. It’s just so imperative that, in my opinion, the people in dispatch know our community and our City.”