By Justin Seward
Bow Island town council discussed various issues with MLA Grant Hunter on Feb. 28.
Council and Hunter spoke about rural emergency medical services (EMS) and the Highway No. 3 bypass.
“EMS and the health minister have developed a 10-point plan to address the issues around EMS in general, but certainly a big impact on the rural situation,” said Bow Island Mayor Gordon Reynolds.
“The big problem they have is lack of people. They this year hired 200 new paramedics but with a tremendous increase in call volume, provincially, they’re dealing with burn out and fatigue and they’re implementing some strategies to alleviate some of that and as I said add more people. They’re working with the colleges to do some more training and to get more people into the system.”
Actions for the 10-point plan that are currently underway include developing a strategic provincial service plan for EMS delivery, hiring more paramedics, launching pilot projects to manage non-emergency inter-facility transfers, initiating ‘hours of work’ project to help ease staff fatigue, low priority calls being transferred to other agencies in consultation with EMS physicians and halting the automatic dispatch calls to motor vehicle accidents that don’t have injuries and a complete evaluation by emergency communications officer to determine if an out-of-area ambulance would be the best course of action and perhaps being closest to the 9-1-1 call.
Actions that still need to be rolled out include an integrated operation centre in Calgary, a pilot project in Red Deer that will manage most patient transfers between facilities transfer units and allowing ambulances to be pre-empted from assignments instead of being automatically dispatched when a 9-1-1 call is received to ensure more ambulances are available for critical patients and developing a strategic provincial service plan for EMS delivery in the province.
“They’re taking it seriously,” said Reynolds.
“The minister has created a committee co-chaired by two MLAs that have background in EMS business and they’ve got people at the table that are involved in the ambulance business I guess we could say, as well as municipal representatives from both RMA and Alberta Municipalities.”
Reynolds says Bow Island has always had occasions where their ambulance has to leave town to take someone to Medicine Hat and Lethbridge and leaving them temporarily unprotected.
“What they’re trying to get away from is having our ambulances ending up in the cities for long periods of time,” he said.
As for the Highway 3 bypass, Reynolds said the department’s focus is on the current twinning project (Taber to Burdett).
“The department is aware of the priorities of the Highway Twinning group, which puts the Bow Island section at No. 4 on the list,” said Reynolds.
“It will take some time before that happens and the department and the minister aren’t really ready to have serious discussions about bypass.”
The budget and pandemic ending were also discussed.
Hunter did not respond to the Commentator for a follow-up interview follwing the council meeting.
Council passed the operating budget in an amount of $4,450,728.43.
“I think the staff did a terrific job of preparing a budget that only has about a 1.5 per cent increase in our costs,” said Reynolds.
“Our budget is balanced against our revenues.”
“One of the big increases in our operating budget were the policing fees that we’re now required to pay that we weren’t previously,” said Reynolds.
“We had some of this money last year—$30 something thousand dollars, this year it’s up to $57,000.”