Wednesday , 19 January 2022

Reeve Sawchuk says EMS 911 Dispatch staying put in Bonnyville

Reeve Greg Sawchuk of the M.D. of Bonnyville says the planned move of the EMS station and 911 to the purchased vacant Kopala building will not happen because of a Alberta Health Services decision. Reeve Sawchuck confirmed in an exclusive interview with Lakeland Connect that a meeting was held with AHS a year after the M.D. decision to purchase the building.

The M.D. of Bonnyville purchased the building at 46213 Township Road 612 and surrounding land for roughly $3.2 million. Shortly after the purchase, the Town of Bonnyville and M.D. of Bonnyville confirmed that Fire Station 5 would move to the vacant Kopala building just west of town, along with all emergency operations including ambulance response and 911 dispatch.

To date, no move has been made. In an exclusive interview with the Reeve on September 20, Lakeland Connect inquired why.

“The last motion made by M.D. council was to not spend more than $6 million on this project, there was no motion to actually even go ahead with the tendering of the documents needed to do the job. So at that point in time, it sat on somebody’s desk,” Reeve Sawchuk told Lakeland Connect. “The last time we heard from the fire authority was that there was going to be no movement in the change on what was wanted from the first initial scope, which we knew was probably going to be over $6 million. Right now, it still sits. So what council did here in this last meeting is came up with a motion to send a very clear letter to both the BRFA and the town about some of our concerns, and let’s go and just get those addressed before we spend any more of the taxpayer’s dollars on this project.”

A meeting was held a year later after the purchase of the building Reeve Sawchuk says and in the AHS EMS meeting with the BRFA Board on Monday, June 21, 2001, AHS explained that if the service is moved to the new building that the provincial benchmark for responses to serious events for a municipality for the size of Bonnyville will no be met. Therefore, ambulance response and 911 dispatch will not be moved.

AHS review of the new station, which would be located at the Kopala building, projects response times within the town for 911 calls will be negatively impacted by up to four minutes in the Town of Bonnyville. AHS said in the meeting that it does not support the move because the majority of calls for the Bonnyville Regional Fire Authority (BRFA) occur and will have negative outcomes on patient care. Especially in circumstances of urgent events.

Reeve Sawchuk says in that meeting AHS, “Expressed significant concern for removing the ambulances, outside of town, and away from the most serious events, and they provided us the maps and documentation in regards to where those echo and delta events take place, and it happens, by no surprise at the hospital near the hospital the senior’s villages. This is where the most serious time-sensitive calls go in and they said, to move ambulances away from there would create a four to five-minute delay, and end up in a decrease in patient care. And so they could not support the move of the ambulances out there.”

The Reeve is blaming administration and says, “My question is, why didn’t we get this information. One year after the fact when we were making a decision on the building. And so it opened up a bunch of questions for administration. And when I look at an issue, I see a dozen cans on a shelf. And we need to, you know, we want to pry them open and the M.D. has moved away from opinion-based decision making to information-based decision making. And what that means is that you open up a lot more cans, but it places a lot of pressure on your administration to provide you with the contents of those cans. And so in this case, I think that we probably left a few cans unopened.”

There were rumors in the town that 911 Dispatch would be moved out of the Lakeland Region altogether. The Reeve says this is not the case, “No, there’s been no motion to that effect.”

“Our council spoke very highly of our local 911,” Reeve Sawchuk told Lakeland Connect. “There are questions around the cost and the cost to our M.D. residents, and why are we subsidizing very customers, the lack of a business plan, and the lack of an agreement between the M.D. and BFRA.”

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About Arthur C. Green

Arthur C. Green is an award winning journalist and is from Whitbourne Newfoundland. Green graduated from the CNA Journalism Program. Arthur also studied Business Marketing and Political Science at Memorial University in Essex England and St. John's Newfoundland. Green has worked for such organizations as CBC, CBC Radio, NTV, Saltwire, Great West Media, CKLB Radio, River Radio, Vista Radio, and Postmedia. He also loves Jiggs Dinner and can fillet a Codfish.