‘Dangerous wait times’ for Alberta health care

It’s been nearly five years since the Alberta government began to centralize rural ambulance services away from municipalities ...

It’s been nearly five years since the Alberta government began to centralize rural ambulance services away from municipalities that have resulted in some drastic and dangerous increases in wait-times.

The effects of this centralization of emergency services are being felt in many rural areas throughout the province of Alberta.

In 2010, Airdrie’s integrated system was disbanded and in turn they saw a 30 per cent increase in wait-times for ambulance service in a very short period of time.

Previous to these changes, Lacombe had an impressive standard of two minutes; today, they have seen it climb to in-excess of ten minutes.

By the end of 2012, average wait times in some communities across the province reached dangerous levels. Sylvan Lake and Rocky Mountain House both have reported wait-times of 15 minutes; Brooks has an 18-minute wait-time; Cardston is 21 minutes; and Pincher Creek has reached an astonishing 30 minutes.

We must remember that these wait-times are averages; which means the time you wait for an ambulance may be shorter or longer than the times reported. With that in mind, consider the possibility of being in need of this lifesaving service, but having to wait 40 minutes before first-responders can be on scene. This ultimately could and will be the difference between life and death.

The continued mismanagement of the province’s Health Care system by the Alberta government has meant a failure to meet their own eight-hour benchmark for admittance into ER for nearly half the patients transported by ambulance to hospitals.

These excessive wait-times have had a drastic negative effect on EMS response times because they are left immobile while waiting for patients to be admitted into ERs.

The centralization of services has also resulted in periods of time where entire communities are left vulnerable after ambulances have been sent to different towns and cities to pick up patients.

The people of the Drumheller-Stettler constituency can be particularly vulnerable when our already limited resources are dispatched elsewhere. It can cause what are already long wait-times to become dangerous wait-times.

The government continues to exacerbate this situation by squeezing our municipalities, first-responders and volunteers, while leaving them short-changed on resources.

Short-changing our front-line workers, on the resources they need to cut wait-times in our ERs, must be brought to an end.

Municipalities need the freedom to contract and choose the best ambulance service for their local needs, instead of having it dictated by the province.

As a proud member of the Wildrose Official Opposition, I will continue to encourage the Alberta government to put Albertans first and fix these critical services we all rely on, by putting the decision-making back in the hands of local people who best know their communities’ requirements.

To check local emergency response wait-times across Alberta you can see them at: www.albertahealthservices.ca/ems.asp.

If you have any questions concerning this column, please contact my office (Drumheller, 403-823-8181; Stettler, 403-742-4284; Hanna, 403-854-4333) or email drumheller.stettler@assembly.ab.ca.

— From The Legislature

 

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