Calgary knocks AHS plan to centralize ambulance dispatch service

Alberta Health Services wants to centralize dispatch operations but opponents in Calgary say the move will create more bureaucracy and erode services.

City says change could increase wait times for paramedics

AHS plan to centralize ambulance dispatch services in Alberta will reduce service says Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi. 1:43

The Alberta government is taking more heat over plans to centralize ambulance dispatch services in the province. 

Currently, ambulances in Calgary are dispatched from the public safety communications centre, which coordinates police, fire and emergency calls.

The province is building its own call centre in Calgary to handle EMS calls separately from police and fire. It would be part of a province-wide ambulance dispatch system.

In a letter to Health minister Fred Horne earlier this month, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he was concerned about the impact of the move on ambulance services in the city.

"We strongly believe that this decision will result in a reduced standard of care and service to Calgarians," he wrote.

A spokesman for front line health workers also expressed concern about the proposed changes to the dispatch system.

Alex Shevalier of the Calgary and District Labour Council said the change could slow the response times.

"We're concerned that the person may have to explain themselves twice, or that you would be shunted between two call centres," he said.

Alberta Health Services says the new system will be able to keep track of where ambulances are dispatched across the province. 

"We have also added a computer-aided dispatch, which is different technology than the current City of Calgary dispatch methodology," AHS spokesman Rick Trimp said.

Trimp added that "with those efficiencies we can get the ambulances dispatched quicker as a result.": 

The province plans to open the new EMS call centre in Calgary next April.