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WHEREAS rural communities throughout Alberta have experienced significant changes since the implementation of the Alberta Health Services (AHS) amalgamation of health services; and
WHEREAS the most serious fragmentation occurred around rural emergency response. Rural communities have documented concerns and presented these to AHS concerning emergency services and response;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts & Counties (AAMDC) request the Province of Alberta to halt the transition of Ambulance Dispatch Centres and that the Standing Issues Committee undertake a joint review with Alberta Urban Municipalities Association to ensure that first responders, ambulance and fire remain as or be returned to one unified, efficient, dispatch to enhance communications while responding to emergencies in Alberta.
After the Minister placed the transition of emergency services on hold various community groups, municipalities and services providers came together on November 6, 2010 to begin a provincial dialogue. On August 26/27, 2011 a provincial conference on Rural Community First Response was held highlighting common concerns and developing a provincial strategy to address the continued problems with the current AHS service delivery mode. Locations that the dispatch centres have been transitioned to AHS has led to disjointed communication between first responders, ambulance and fire.
Given the lack of phase I and II telecommunication rollout in rural Alberta, AHS cannot meet the technological requirements to ensure safety from a centralized dispatch. Until this can be assured by AHS, AAMDC recommends that local dispatch/response and current risk management strategies remain in place.
These unified dispatch services (fire, ambulance and first responders) are viable due to the cooperative funding model. By working cooperatively together to provide this service to our taxpayers in the Province of Alberta is an efficient and wise use of tax dollars.
If this funding model changes, the municipalities (taxpayers) will be responsible for the shortfall of funding these dispatch centres. These negative actions will make all the centres less viable.
5-08F: THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request the Alberta Government Health and Wellness Department include the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties as a major stakeholder in all future consultations regarding the renewed model for patient-centered and coordinated EMS to allow input on decisions that may have a negative impact on other municipal emergency services or cause increased costs for delivering these other services.
Alberta Health Services (AHS) is working with municipalities and other stakeholders in deploying solutions to enable communication between emergency medical services (EMS) and fire dispatch centres and between resources responding to emergencies.
The EMS dispatch consolidation is intended to enhance communications; however, AHS has reported that in a number of the consolidations, municipalities are not willing to lease infrastructure time or space to AHS. This has created a barrier that compromises communication between EMS and municipal agencies.
AHS is actively engaging communities where issues have been identified to find solutions and is working with municipalities to ensure communication between EMS, fire departments and police services is not disrupted when responding to emergencies.
Alberta Health and Wellness recognizes AAMDC members are key stakeholders in this process. The ministry and AHS will continue to work to keep stakeholders well informed throughout any consolidation processes.
The January 2013 Health Quality Council of Alberta (HQCA) report on Alberta’s ground ambulance services, recommended that the consolidation of ambulance dispatch continue immediately. With the government’s acceptance of this recommendation, the reaction to this resolution is deemed Unsatisfactory. Dispatch consolidation had been limited until the release of the report and the AAMDC is disappointed in the renewed effort to consolidate. The Ministry of Health is currently reviewing the dispatch system. The AAMDC will continue to advocate for dispatch issues through its participation on the Medical First Response Advisory Panel, and the grass-roots Rural Community First Responders Working Group.