Wildrose MLA for the Constituency of
Emergency Medical Service Response Times
Mr. Stier: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Southern Alberta is in a crisis
due to shortages. Rural ambulance wait times are often up to 45
minutes after years of tinkering with this by government, and it is
putting residents at risk. For a farmer who collapses in his field, a
gardener experiencing sudden chest pain, or a senior in a facility a
half hour truly means the difference between life and death. To the
Minister of Health: what are you doing to address this
unacceptable government failure within Alberta’s ambulance
Mr. Horne: Well, Mr. Speaker, a few years ago the government
made a policy decision, and in my view it is completely in line
with what Albertans expect. We recognize the fact that EMS is
health care. We have a proud tradition of some EMS services
continuing today to be offered by municipalities across the
province, but we recognize that for many Albertans the front door
to the health system is often that emergency medical services
worker that responds to them when they’re in need. As the hon.
member knows, we’ve taken initiatives to centralize dispatch
across the province. We continue to work with municipalities on
other measures to improve the service.
The Speaker: The hon. member.
Mr. Stier: Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker. Given that more than 14
reeves and mayors from across rural Alberta wrote the minister a
letter, which I’ll be tabling, by the way, here in a few minutes,
requesting that he reconsider plans to consolidate ambulance
services, can the minister say now whether or not he plans on
finally meeting with these community leaders and working with
them, not against them, to fix these EMS wait times?
Mr. Horne: Mr. Speaker, I know the letter very well, and if the
hon. member has studied the letter, he will also know that the
majority of mayors who signed it have already consolidated their
local dispatch service with the Alberta Health Services central
dispatch system. We continue to work with municipalities in the
case of cities such as Red Deer and Lethbridge. We’re working
very closely with elected officials there to time the consolidation
of dispatch in a way that will be streamlined and seamless from
the point of view of people who use the service. This is a vast
improvement in Canada in the delivery of EMS, and we continue
to see it through.
The Speaker: The hon. member.
Mr. Stier: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Well, I’m not sure if that’s
exactly true, but given that Albertans’ lives depend on immediate
response times, can the minister explain how centralizing
ambulance services to Alberta’s two major cities serves our rural
municipalities better, or is this due to become just another failed
policy on this minister’s record?
Mr. Horne: Mr. Speaker, the initiative is around the
centralization of the dispatch function, not all of the EMS
services. As the hon. member will know, there are multiple areas
in the province still today – they are dwindling in number – where
the dispatch services cannot be looked at and managed on a
provincial basis. The result – and it might be the case in the hon.
member’s own constituency – is that entire areas of the province
appear dark when it comes to organization and deployment of
emergency medical services resources. This is an issue the hon.
member should be concerned about because it will result in his
ambulances being available to people when he needs them most.