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Lethbridge mayor voices concern over suggested 911 dispatch consolidation

Lethbridge EMS rush to aid victims in mock disaster training.
Lethbridge EMS rush to aid victims in mock disaster training. Demi Knight/Global News

Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman says a proposal to “terminate” dispatches in four Alberta municipalities and consolidate them would hurt patient care.

Consolidating 911 EMS dispatch services from Calgary, Lethbridge, Red Deer and Wood Buffalo was one of the many recommendations that came out of the Alberta Health Services review aimed at improving the quality and long-term sustainability of the province’s health services.

The review said the “termination” of dispatch services in those four municipalities in favour of two consolidated dispatch centres managed by AHS could save as much as $5 million in “gross valuation.”

READ MORE: Lethbridge man reunited with first responders who saved his life, changed his perspective

Spearman said the argument should be for adequate and efficient services, not for cheaper options.

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“It’s not about what’s difficult for a bureaucracy in Edmonton, it’s about providing good service to people in need,” said Spearman.

“It’s about making sure that our first responders get to an incident as quickly as possible and save lives. So I’m very concerned that we’re trying to do something to benefit bureaucrats in Edmonton at the expense of people in Lethbridge who may be having heart attacks or other issues.”

The Lethbridge mayor added that Lethbridge also runs an integrated first response system, where firefighters are also trained as paramedics to streamline and maximize health services in major incidents.

“The most effective service is a locally-based service,” Spearman said.

READ MORE: Alberta government nixes AHS review recommendation to close 5 rural hospitals, Edmonton trauma centre

“We can send a firetruck if all ambulances are tied up to attend to a medical emergency. That’s a much better system than what’s being proposed for Alberta Health, and I think it’s a service that’s worth fighting for.”

This isn’t a new issue for the Lethbridge mayor.

“This is one that we already dealt with back in 2013-2014. And municipalities like Lethbridge made the case to the health minister at the time that it’s much more important to save lives,” he said.

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“I think everyone in Lethbridge should be concerned that this proposal will reduce the level of service in Lethbridge, result in longer responses to medical emergencies and put people at risk.”

AHS said it had no comment on the story when Global News reached out.