Castor’s ambulance service is going to be seeing some much needed assistance from the province.
The Government of Alberta announced a $14 million bump in funding to 14 community ambulance services in rural Alberta, and Castor was specifically named as one of the sites to receive funding.
Announced during the municipal leaders caucus in early March, the announcement comes on the heels of the conclusion of the “Hours of Work” study conducted by Alberta Health Services (AHS) to look at ways to control Emergency Medical Services overtime.
Lorne Dewart, the operations manager of East Central Ambulance looks at the announcement as good news for the service, but he notes that nothing is official yet.
“Even though the premier announced the $14 million for the Hours of Work project, nothing has come from AHS,” said Dewart.
“I have no idea how much we’ll see, but some will be coming to offset our operating costs.”
This is positive news for the service, as it is currently still operating under a contract that was hammered out in 2009.
In the years since, expenses for the service have gone up but the money from the province has not kept up with them.
One issue driving up costs for the service is the amount of time the service spends “flexing.”
Flexing occurs when one, or more, of the of the East Central Ambulance units is dispatched to cover neighbouring municipalities while their own ambulances are out of service for whatever reason.
East Central has to pay for the crews, and any potential overtime while they are away from their home station, but doesn’t receive any extra compensation from AHS for providing the service.
“Our board has been very vocal about East Central Ambulance’s situation,” said Dewart.
The service was to begin negotiations this year for a new contract; however, AHS recently announced that the existing contract would be carried over for two additional years before being negotiated.
“It was two years, or divest,” said Dewart.
Another issue plaguing services such as East Central Ambulance is the province’s recently announced 10-point plan, particularly where it comes to hiring more staff.
“Where are the people coming from?” asked Dewart.
“It’s creating a hiring nightmare. Schools are not pushing out enough students to meet demands.”
Dewart also noted that there is a huge number of AHS paramedic jobs posted in the province as well as positions with other contractors such as East Central Ambulance.