Bonnyville-Cold Lake MLA, Scott Cyr, says fighting for a better way to deliver ambulance service to rural Alberta is his passion. The MLA recently met with local leaders for various municipalities in his region and is working with these partner in finding a solution to problems with Alberta’s ambulance service. Cyr says one of the biggest issues comes from Alberta Health Service’s (AHS) centralized dispatching.
“The fact is, rural ambulance service is something that needs to be addressed in Alberta, right now,” states the MLA. “The centralizing of ambulance dispatching doesn’t seem to work.” Cyr says the Wildrose party, which he is a member of, brings up issues with the ambulance service almost once-a-week during the question period. “The Health Minister said she was going to fix our ambulance services and just a couple of weeks ago, before Christmas, we ended up with her solution being, adding longer response time. That’s an unacceptable risk that she is playing with Albertans lives across the rural.”
It’s frustrating to see that Minister Hoffman’s solution is to loosen the rules. -Scott Cyr MLA Bonnyville-Cold Lake
“I would like to see us go back to a regional system, which is something that was advocated for by the Wildrose,” Cyr states that the Wildrose will continue to advocate for a regional system. Ambulances are being dispatched out of Edmonton, which causes many problems:
- The dispatchers are not aware of the local geography and at times are unaware of quicker or more efficient routes
- Ambulances that are used to transfer patients to Edmonton can be dispatched to jobs in Edmonton, once the patient is checked into the hospital. This causes the ambulance to time out in Edmonton or on its way back to the rural town/city.
- There has been a large number of Code Reds in Northeastern Alberta, specially the Bonnyville-Cold Lake constituency. A Code Red is when a town/city goes a long period of time without an ambulance in its jurisdiction
Cyr says a regional system would help eliminate these issues and just makes sense, “it makes sense that you would manage a call system throughout your own region.” Cyr says the new twelve-minute response time is not acceptable for rural Alberta, “people need to understand that the new response time that the Government is putting out there is really putting our heart attack and stroke victims at risk because every second counts. There’s no acceptable reason, that I can come up with, that there’s a different response time between our urban and the bigger urbans.”
Cyr met with representatives from the Village of Glendon, Town and Municipal District (MD) of Bonnyville, as well as the City of Cold Lake, to discuss what problems these leaders see in the ambulance system. Cyr also opened it up to these municipalities to suggest solutions to the problems, the MLA believes in hearing from the people who are most affected by the problem. “I am gathering together all the people within the riding, to hear what their concerns and thoughts were. I am doing some consultations and from there I will start to work on how to address the Minister.”
Recently, the Town & MD of Bonnyville passed motions not to add any extra funds to the ambulance service; both municipalities believe this is a Provincial responsibility. “Unfortunately, whenever you make decisions, you always have to be looking at what’s best for your constituents. I hear everybody’s concerned that if they do put money into the ambulance system, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to get better. This is a question that continues to go to the Minister of Health’s office and it continues to be ignored. The reason is, if we put $100,000 or $200,000 into our ambulance services, we expect that money to have those ambulances stay rural. They’re not getting an answer and I understand their frustration, and unfortunately, it seems like this is the route that it’s going.”
Until we can hold the Minister of Health accountable for the lack of insight into our problem, we’re going to continue seeing municipalities across Alberta pulling their funding. That means it’s our constituents that will be put at risk and that’s just not acceptable. – Scott Cyr MLA Bonnyville-Cold Lake
The MLA says the best thing a regular person can do to address his/her concerns with the ambulance system is to write Cyr, “I don’t encourage form letters, because what we need is local stories and local concerns. Form letters go in volume, which is fine, but they’re normally not taken seriously. We saw with Bill 6, our farmers and ranchers writing letters and really mobilizing. By writing their letters I can start accumulating these letters and I can start reading them into the house, on record.”
This is upsetting and the only way that we can start to have the Provincial Government hear what the concerns are, is by having it being addressed by actual people in the situation. – Scott Cyr MLA Bonnyville-Cold Lake
“At the very least, I will be able to table [the letters] and make sure their concerns are being brought forward and they’re going to be in public record,” states Cyr. “We need to make sure the Alberta Government isn’t able to ever say, ‘well we didn’t have anybody say it was a bad thing.'” Cyr says the Official Opposition, the Wildrose Party, has been addressing the ambulance issues, during Question Period weekly, “they just haven’t been listening and they haven’t been consulting. That’s what we’ve been seeing consistently from this Government, is that they haven’t been listening and they haven’t been consulting with Albertans.”
I’m very passionate on this. – Scott Cyr MLA Bonnyville-Cold Lake