By Nikki Jamieson
Westwind Weekly News
The Town of Magrath is working on a proposal aiming to alleviate their ambulance and lab situation in town.
Magrath Mayor Byrne Cook says that they’ve been asked by Dr. Aaron Low, director for Alberta Health Services south zone, for suggestions on how to improve healthcare in town. Cook said that since he took office in the fall of 2021, he’s had three to four meetings with Low.
“They’ve been very happy to talk with us about solutions,” said Cook. “We’re working on the ambulance situation and the labs situation.”
Currently, the lab in Magrath is closed due to staffing issues, and ambulance comes from outside of town.
“AHS seems to really to be listening right now. Whether they have the capability and capacity to really respond is another thing, but they really are reaching out.”
The lack of ambulance service in town means residents have to wait for an ambulance to come from either Raymond, Cardston or Lethbridge, which means increased wait times. Additionally, depending on schedules, there may be times where either Raymond or Cardston are short-staffed. They are also looking at how they can send ambulances out to the vital calls and use a different type of transport to for transfer calls between hospitals, as Cook says that about 50 per cent of an ambulance’s time is used up for that.
During town council’s regular Jan. 25 meeting, representatives from Magrath and District Emergency Services — Tyler Park and Scott Neilson — talked about the ambulance side of the issue, with council asking them to come back with a proposal to present to AHS, to supplement their current service. Previously, a petition was sent to AHS on medical services from Magrath citizens.
“We can go through and we can document where the ambulance hasn’t been, and where we’ve been let down and where it’s at, but what they’re working on now is a possible solution. And so, what could Magrath actually provide for an ambulance based on previous systems that we’ve had, and, going forward, what would be our actual suggestion for having an active ambulance in Magrath.”
This will include looking at what they would need for people to full those roles, training, how it would effect the Raymond, Cardston and Lethbridge services that currently serve the town and how they could fill in “some of the holes”.
Cook says that Low as a couple of solutions and things they are working on to try and get staff back in the lab in Magrath. Currently, staff in Magrath are sent to Raymond, which Cook said which “sadly does makes sense”, as “there’s no use having two facilities that are understaffed”. However, he would like to see someone in the Magrath lab.
“How can we draw up a plan that would supplement Raymond and serve Magrath and make it better?,” said Cook. “Rather then just going through and trying to complain to AHS and say ‘yeah, the system doesn’t work and we don’t like it and we want our ambulance back’, we want to send in a solution and say ‘okay, this is where we’ve identified that the peak hours are, this is where we could help out, this is a couple of holes that we see in the system that our people can fill’, and try to provide a plan. So at least when we do that, then there’s something to work with, and they can give us suggestions and we work back and forth.”
Cook hopes for the proposal to be ready in the next couple of weeks.
“Ultimately, our goal is to maintain our medical services. We’ve got three good doctors in town, we want to be able to keep them. Having an active lab certainly increases those opportunities. Having sufficient ambulatory services — even if it’s primary from Raymond but it’s supplemented with the proposal we have — we just want to be able to support the current services with the proposal we’re putting in.”