Lethbridge to join Red Deer, Calgary, Wood Buffalo in EMS dispatch complaint to Alberta ombudsman

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WATCH: The City of Lethbridge will join Red Deer, Calgary and Wood Buffalo once again in vocal opposition to centralized EMS dispatch. As Danica Ferris reports, with a new provincial health minister in place, the municipalities are now taking their complaints to the Alberta ombudsman. – Sep 27, 2021

Lethbridge will once again join Red Deer, Calgary and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo in vocally opposing the province’s consolidated EMS dispatch.

In a unanimous vote at a special meeting of Lethbridge city council on Monday, members of council supported an official business resolution from Mayor Chris Spearman, who says in the months since dispatch for ambulance service was centralized, the results have been “disastrous.”

Read more: Alberta mayors disappointed motion to reverse centralization of EMS dispatch defeated

“We had asked for accountability. We were told there would be accountability. There has been none,” Spearman said.

“We’re hearing Alberta Health Services’ dispatch contradict callers. People say, ‘We called,’ and there are five or six witnesses that say it took 25 minutes, and EMS dispatch central services say, ‘No, it only took 10.'”

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Spearman says Lethbridge Fire and EMS has been documenting the series of issues that have been experienced — impacting patient care — since the consolidation to AHS call centres was done in January of this year.

Read more: Lethbridge relates to Wood Buffalo, which voted to defy consolidated EMS dispatch

Fire Chief Marc Rathwell answered questions from city council on Monday and says staff are feeling the pressure, with code red situations now happening daily in Lethbridge.

Code red means there are no ambulances available for emergency calls in a specific region.

Similar problems are being experienced in all four municipalities, so together they are collaborating in a letter to the provincial ombudsman, who will determine whether the right processes were followed in making and implementing the decision.

Spearman says he hopes new Health Minister Jason Copping will see what five health ministers before Tyler Shandro saw and reject centralized dispatch.

“Knowing that we’re appealing to the provincial ombudsman may give the new health minister pause for thought, that this decision may be reviewed independently. There may be an embarrassing public report that comes out from the ombudsman,” Spearman said.

Read more: ‘This mistake is entirely preventable’: Alberta mayors push for pause in EMS dispatch consolidation

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There is no timeline for when the ombudsman might review the letter or make any determinations.

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