By Erika Mathieu
Westwind Weekly News
With just over a week left before the announcement of Alberta’s next premier on Oct. 6, Danielle Smith stopped in Coaldale, promising to support municipalities wishing to take over ambulance
Coaldale’s Mayor Jack Van Rijn addressed Smith during her brief meet and greet at the Coaldale Inn on Sept. 28, and used the time to reiterate council’s ongoing concerns with the steep escalation of code red events in the town. Van Rijn asked Smith whether she would support Coaldale, and other municipalities across the province, in their plans to take their ambulance services back from Alberta Health Services and switch from the current direct control model to a service provider model to re-establish jurisdiction over the Town’s ambulances.
In recent months, Coaldale and District Emergency Services (CDES) and Coaldale Council have been increasingly vocal in bringing focus to the shortcomings of the current AHS direct control model. Van Rijn has said these inefficiencies have driven up response times, and wait times in Coaldale are on average double those of neighbouring communities such as Taber.
Based on the data collected by AHS, ambulance response times for life-threatening events in Coaldale have more than doubled from six minutes in 2012 to 13 minutes in the first quarter of 2022. Van Rijn said since 2018, “Coaldale has maintained the highest response time for life-threatening events in the entire south zone.”
“We’re on a record-setting pace of 84 code red events by the end of the year, which would amount to an 830 per cent increase in code red events since 2012, and a 150 per cent (increase) since 202,” he added.
The growing trend of dissatisfaction with AHS EMS among municipalities across the province has prompted UCP front runners Travis Toews and Danielle Smith to publicly endorse their support for municipalities expressing a desire to move away from AHS’s EMS delivery model.
During her address in Coaldale, Smith responded “yes” to mayor Van Rijn’s question of whether or not she would, if elected, support Coaldale and other interested municipalities, in taking back control of their ambulance services. In recent weeks, Travis Toews has also expressed his support of Coaldale’s plans.
Van Rijn shared, “AHS just announced last week that we’re going to switch over one of our ambulances to a 12-hour shift,” but added the remaining ambulances will still operate on ‘coreflex’ model. The current AHS EMS ‘coreflex’ scheduling model dictates ambulance crews are scheduled for 96-hour straight shifts which requires paramedics to work show up every day for four hours, but be on call for the remainder of that day. “If a call comes in, paramedics have to go home, change into uniform, and get to the ambulance and respond– hence the long response time(s),” added Van Rijn.
“Those who want to take it back, should be able to take it back,” Smith said.
In the meantime, AHS has agreed to shift control of ambulance services back to the town of Coaldale, contingent on the Minister of Health’s approval.
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