Ambulance dispatch centralization in Alberta back on agenda

The Alberta government is taking another look at centralizing ambulance dispatch service.

Health Minister Fred Horne promises talk with mayors who have concerns

The Alberta government is taking another look at centralizing ambulance dispatch service.

The plan is to create three hubs — in Calgary, Edmonton and Peace River.

Health Minister Fred Horne says there are still issues to be sorted out regarding how the new system would affect existing integrated dispatch service in Lethbridge, Red Deer, Fort McMurray and Peace River.

“In other words they've got their fire and ground ambulance being dispatched together.... We would take a look to see how we could preserve those integrated services and at the same time meet our provincial objectives, like making sure the closest ambulance to an emergency situation responds,” he said.

Horne said he will meet with the four affected mayors by the end of the month.

Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman says it's crucial to keep dispatch services local, rather than having fire and police calls answered in Lethbridge while ambulance calls are answered in Calgary.

"Our fire [fighters] are also trained paramedics. In a situation where our ambulances are all in use and all out on calls, we can send a firetruck to an emergency and that means quicker response times." 

The provincial NDP says Alberta needs to review the entire dispatch system.

In some cases wait times for an ambulance are much longer than they used to be, the opposition party says. 

Alberta signalled a plan to move to one province-wide dispatch system in 2009,but it was halted a year laterby logistical and mapping concerns, including urban dispatchers being unfamiliar with rural areas.

That same year, all provincial health regions were consolidated into the current Alberta Health Services superboard.