Bonnyville-Cold Lake MLA, Scott Cyr, is gathering the ammunition he needs to present the problems with the current ambulance dispatching system in Alberta to the provincial government. It’s no secret that the current centralized dispatching system ran by Alberta Health Services (AHS) has many flaws, many of the flaws can mean life or death to patients’ in need of emergency care.
With the centralized system the dispatcher is not local, and does not know the region. This has caused cases where an ambulance has been dispatched from Bonnyville to a rural location when it would be quicker to dispatch from Cold Lake. In addition to that, the centralized system calls out the closest available bus, this becomes a problem when an ambulance from Cold Lake transports a patient to Edmonton. The Cold Lake ambulance registers to the dispatcher as active and in the area once the patient is admitted to the Edmonton hospital, the dispatcher is not aware that the ambulance needs to go back to Cold Lake, so it gets called out on Edmonton jobs. That means Cold Lake is without the ambulance for an extended period of time and the emergency crew times out in Edmonton. Meaning that on the drive back they are burning overtime hours and when they finally return to Cold Lake they cannot go out on jobs.
These flaws have caused multiple cases of “Code Reds” in The Lakeland area. In fact, 2014 over 200 hours of Code Red were documented in Cold Lake, to which the Mayor of Cold Lake, Craig Copeland, says is “unacceptable.”
Mayor Copeland, has spoken out about these issues on many occasions, stating that the dispatching system “puts people’s lives in jeopardy”. City Council has even taken steps towards correcting the problem internally by looking into the budget to see if there is money available to dispatch an emergency ambulance on the City’s dime. However, Council is reluctant to spend money on a service that should be covered by the province. Despite their best efforts to grab the provinces attention, the City has yet to receive a response, they need an advocate on their side.
MLA Scott Cyr, says he’s ready to advocate for the region. His first step is collecting information, “I’ll be going out to all the different ambulance services and hear what they have to say, and how they would address this concern.” By going to the people who work in the industry and have first hand knowledge of the problem, Cyr believes he will be able to best formulate a plan to present to the provincial powers that be, “everyone, you would assume, would have a different solution to this [problem], we need to come up with some sort of compromise.”
Cyr says it’s a delicate procedure, he doesn’t want to jump the gun and not have all his facts in order, “what I want is to be able to have a good, strong plan, how to implement the plan, and how much it’s going to cost. That usually helps the success of moving forward.” After the information gathering and cost-analysis, Cyr will then write a formal letter from his office to the Health Minister, Sarah Hoffman, “have a concern, some facts, and a solution. That’s how you get this fixed.”
The was talk of the PC government making changes to the dispatching system, however, Cyr says the NDP government is “holding ground right now until they can get all of their ministries up and running. Right now, it sounds like a lot of them are trying to make sure they have the staff in place and that’s what they’re focused on. What we’re seeing is the government is stalled, more or less, for now. Once they get their feet underneath them we’ll see some movement.”
“I do believe this is a big concern for our riding, we need to address it.”