Local officials disappointed City will lose dispatch

  • Mar. 13, 2013 3:16 p.m.

Red Deer will lose its Emergency Medical Service (EMS) Dispatch Centre after the province accepted a recommendation from the Health Quality Council of Alberta (HQCA) last week to dissolve dispatch operations in Red Deer and consolidate it to two centres – one in Calgary and one in Edmonton.

“We are very disappointed with this decision. It discounts the value of local knowledge, and we believe consolidation of these services in the two metropolitan centres is the wrong move,” said City Manager Craig Curtis.

“We are well positioned to continue providing ambulance dispatch on an ongoing basis, and we strongly urge the province to reconsider this decision.

“One of the cases they have made is that they will have new technology to track ambulances across the province to be able to communicate between zones. I just wanted to make it absolutely clear that we believe that that is a little disingenuous because in fact we proposed to upgrade our service to that technology.

“We can already track – that’s a more advanced technology that they are going to put in Edmonton and Calgary. All they needed to do for the regional centres was to allow us to install and fund the new technology. We put in a written proposal to the province to do that and they rejected it because they had this overriding philosophy of consolidation. To use that as a reason — they need to consolidate because they need the new technology — is misleading. These technologies can work just as effectively on a regional basis as they can on a consolidated metropolitan basis.”

The recommendations from HQCA and the province came in the form of a 350-page report. At this time, the City has not been contacted directly from the province regarding the impact of the recommendations, and timing related to consolidation of emergency dispatch remains unknown.

“This is yet another example of centralization that hurts our region. I am extremely disheartened by some of the recommendations in this report and the decision to centralize ambulance dispatch. I will advocate for this decision to be reversed; but regardless, we will ensure our EMS continues to provide the service Red Deerians expect and deserve,” said Mayor Morris Flewwelling.

The City of Red Deer has worked hard over the past five years to focus on regional dispatch operations for Red Deer and surrounding communities, and it’s all been done with efficiency and exceptional service in mind, officials added.

“Our EMS Dispatch Centre is familiar with the local and rural areas we serve,” said Curtis. “The logistical and familiarity issues raised in 2009 still remain – a mapping system can’t entirely replace the local knowledge and expertise built into our current ambulance dispatch system.”

The HQCA report also outlines recommendations related to the 9-1-1 system, EMS delivery system, information and managing the quality and safety of the EMS system, and quality and safety management.

The report recommends a minimum basic life support system, which is a lower level of care than the City currently provides through its ambulance response.

However, at this time, the City is unclear on how that may impact its contract for ambulance or what level of service is provided by other ambulances to Red Deer residents.

For more information, or to read the full report, visit HQCA’s web site or www.health.alberta.ca/newsroom.html.

efawcett@reddeerexpress.com

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