Alberta’s health minister says he will review the concerns of four mayors who say the government’s plan to consolidate 911 emergency medical service dispatch services will put lives at risk.
Tyler Shandro met Thursday with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Red Deer’s Tara Veer, Lethbridge’s Chris Spearman and Mayor Don Scott of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.
The mayors have been lobbying hard against the change, which the province says would save money and make the EMS dispatch service more efficient.
Nenshi says 911 dispatch should be operated at the municipal level because local knowledge and integration with fire services can’t be overlooked if safety is the top priority.
Veer, Spearman and Scott say the meeting shows Shandro is willing to seek out additional information from municipalities to understand the effect consolidation would have on local patients, and they hope the province will come to the conclusion that it does not make sense to change the system.
Shandro says it was a good meeting and he will consider what the mayors have told him.
“I think consolidating ambulance dispatch into AHS makes sense. It will make the system work better and save money that we’ll reinvest in the health system,” Shandro said Thursday in an e-mail.
“Most importantly, the evidence I’ve seen shows it won’t change response times or cause delays for ambulances or other first responders. But I respect the mayors’ concerns and the information they shared, and I committed to them that we’ll review their concerns and get back to them before the transition begins.”
The fire chiefs of the four municipalities also attended the meeting.
Alberta Health Services says it has three EMS dispatch centres in Calgary, Edmonton and Slave Lake that currently dispatch ambulances for 60 per cent of the province’s population and cover most of the province’s geographic area. The government announced the plan to consolidate the dispatch service last month.
At the time, the four mayors said they were blindsided by the decision and said it would put the lives of their residents at risk.
The mayors then asked for a meeting with Shandro and called on Premier Jason Kenney to reverse the decision.