Alberta ombudsman says AHS decision on EMS dispatch not under her jurisdiction

Alberta’s ombudsman says she won’t be able to help mayors hoping to get more answers about recent changes to 911 dispatch of ambulances in their cities.

However, Marianne Ryan did confirm that the change was a decision made by Alberta Health Services.

“While many government-related bodies fall under my jurisdiction, AHS is not one of them,” the ombudsman said in a news release on Friday. “In fact, the Ombudsman Act specifically states that my powers of investigation do not apply to health authorities.

“My ability to investigate AHS decisions would require a change in legislation.”

Read more: Lethbridge to join Red Deer, Calgary, Wood Buffalo in EMS dispatch complaint to Alberta ombudsman

The mayors of Red Deer, Lethbridge, Calgary and the R.M. of Wood Buffalo filed a complaint with the ombudsman on Oct. 13.

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The municipalities have been opposed to a decision made to have 911 dispatch calls in their communities go through provincial dispatch centres.

Before finalizing the consolidation in January, AHS said the move will save money and improve patient care, but mayors of the affected communities and first responders still strongly opposed the idea.

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek, who was a councillor when the change took effect, voiced her ongoing disappointment with the move.

Read more: Alberta mayors disappointed motion to reverse centralization of EMS dispatch defeated

“Everything that we’ve seen and heard about EMS dispatching is that it continues to be terrible, and I don’t see it getting better until we can go back to the system that we had,” she said.

In presentations to the previous city council, Calgary 911 representatives said having dispatchers for fire, police and ambulance in the same room — known as “twist and shout” — allowed dispatchers to get resources out to citizens in need faster.

“For the life of me, I still can’t understand why we had to move away from it,” Gondek said Friday.

“(It) is incredibly discouraging that municipalities and their citizens were not listened to.”

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Read more: Judge grants interim injunction to Alberta government in EMS dispatch dispute

The ombudsman doesn’t normally comment publicly on complaints, but this case was different.

“Given the substance of the complaint has been widely reported in the media and that it relates to an issue affecting a great many Albertans, I advised the mayors that I would be making a public statement,” Ryan said.

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