Cochrane citizens asks for town council’s help to improve EMS coverage
A group of citizens in Cochrane, Alta. are working to improve EMS coverage in the area, and they’re asking the town council for help.
During a meeting on Monday, the Cochrane EMS Crisis Community Action Group (CAG) presented ideas for councillors to help with the ongoing EMS crisis, something they say regularly leaves residents without adequate EMS coverage.
Much of the meeting focused on one idea — for council to provide funding, or direction, for the Cochrane Fire Department to purchase an additional response vehicle for when there’s no ambulance in the area.
“We need a stopgap. We need something that we can put our citizens in if something happens,” said Brian Winter, a retired paramedic and chair of the Cochrane CAG.
“It looks like an ambulance, it smells like an ambulance, it tastes like an ambulance, but it’s not an ambulance. It can go out, stabilize, get a hold of medical control and, if required, transport.”
Winter says the vehicle would cost around $180,000, and staffing could be worked out between administration and the fire department.
The Cochrane CAG also asked town council to advocate to keep their ambulances in the area — rather than being sent to other communities.
Winter says emergency crews also need to stop doing non-emergency transfers, and that they need to off-load patients quickly to reduce hallway wait times.
Cochrane Mayor Jeff Genung said in the meeting that it isn’t as easy as buying a vehicle — operations would be costly and they need to work together with the province.
He said he has a meeting with Minister of Health Jason Copping later this week and may bring the idea forward.
“We’re not just sitting back and letting this happen to us. We’re doing what we can and being active with participating with the province to make some active change,” Genung said during the meeting.
‘Difficult to accept’
Along with Winter, Dennis Fundytus was one of the big players in getting EMS services launched in Cochrane in 1983, before Alberta Health Services took over in 2009.
He’s now a retired family physician and a member of Cochrane CAG.
“It’s sort of difficult for me to accept that our ambulance service now is at a critical stage in terms of leaving the community without resources, which is pretty spooky from a physician point of view,” said Fundytus.
The provincial government and Alberta Health Services look after ambulance services, Fundytus said. But he says Cochrane CAG is now asking the municipal government to use their resources to help.
“What we’re hoping to avoid is an unnecessary death catastrophe in town.”
May Olson was part of the group of residents who turned up to council chambers to attend the meeting.
She says she supports the group’s idea.
“I’ve been here for over almost 42 years and I’m concerned,” said 89-year-old Olson. “We need something to keep it going at least.”
Olson says an additional response vehicle might increase taxes, depending on how funding is allocated.
But extra taxes would be worth making sure there’s help for residents who need it.
“If everybody can put towards the taxes, it’ll help all the way — for the whole town,” she said.
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