Published online at GlobalTVEdmonton.com on February 3, 2011.
Linda Hoang, Global News: Thursday, February 3, 2011
St. Albert mayor concerned about ambulance wait times
The mayor of St. Albert is asking the province to add an extra ambulance to the city, after new data released this week shows wait times for emergency crews to arrive on scene can take upwards of 20 minutes.
Mayor Nolan Crouse is saying the long wait times is unacceptable and blames AHS’s border-less ambulance system, which came into effect two years ago.
“We just expect a service delivery for our city to be equal to or better than what was previously delivered and that is not the case,” Crouse said on Thursday.
“The ambulances (now) are supporting Alberta, they’re not supporting their municipalties.”
The data showed that 90% of the time when an Edmonton-based ambulance is dispatched to St. Albert, response time is about 22 minutes and if the ambulance is coming from other municipalities, it can take up to 24 minutes.
Crouse has said he’s heard of some response times even taking up to an hour.
Historically the city’s fire and ambulance departments were integrated with the dispatch centre based in St. Albert as well.
When AHS made the move to take over emergency medical response in the province, St. Albert was one of 11 other municipalities who kept the integrated model, employing its two ambulances under the city while contracting out to AHS.
The locally-based dispatch centre moved to Strathcona and the ambulances were now required to serve not only St. Albert but nearby municipalities and vice versa.
But that system isn’t working, Crouse said.
“Those ambulancse are spread too thin.”
However, AHS said that if locally-based ambulances are dispatched to other areas, there is “standby coverage.”
“When an ambulance is dispatched outside of their community there are a number of resources that we can draw from to provide standby coverage to that community,” said Trevor Maslyk, executive director for Alberta Health Service’s EMS Edmonton north zones.
“City of Edmonton perhaps or Morinville, those units may move into St. Albert to standby for an emergency call. What we do is take the resources that we have and apply them where it is most appropriate based on our ability to understand where the call volumes are and then address the issues as we understand it.”
Crouse has met with AHS to negotiate extending the city’s integrated system for at least one more year, but he’s also requesting more ambulances be based out of St. Albert.
“What’s been communicated to us from the very beginning is that services in St. Albert wouldn’t decline and they have. What we want to see is the movement on adding a third ambulance and ultimately a fourth ambulance,” he said.
If AHS allows for an extra ambulance to be based out of St. Albert, they would be paying for at least 10 extra staff.
Maslyk said further discussion has to take place before something like that can be considered.
“We need to look at it from a provincial perspective we need to understand what the issue is relative to response times and whether the service provision is appropriate based on that geographic region,” Maslyk said.
He added that Crouse first needs to amend the contract AHS and St. Albert currently have to include the additional ambulances request.
“Once that’s in front of us and we have a good understanding of it we can look at that and consider it at that time,” he said.