Ambulance Crisis

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

system?

 

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.