AHS, Minster of Health to review local EMS funding

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Representatives from Alberta Health Services (AHS) and Alberta Health are going to be taking a solid look at the data surrounding the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in Bonnyville in hopes of resolving the current funding dispute.

Officials in Bonnyville have been voicing their concerns over the state of the local ambulance services, feeling the operation is underfunded and not providing residents with the services the deserve.

The issue between the two sides has been moving forward in a positive direction in recent months, which includes a productive discussion on Feb. 29.

“The meeting itself was very positive. There was an atmosphere of cooperation and collaboration and an absolute willingness to work together,” said Bonnyville Mayor Gene Sobolewksi.

According to Sobolewski the town will be sending statistics regarding the ambulance services in the community to AHS and the provincial government, who will have operational and financial staff review the data. After taking a look at the numbers, the provincial officials are expected to provide recommendations, with the goal of getting the current issue resolved.

“The meeting was productive and confirmed our commitment to working together to deliver the best EMS care possible to the community and surrounding area,” said AHS Communications Director Kerry Williamson in a statement to the Nouvelle.

“AHS is working with community leaders to ensure residents of Bonnyville and the surrounding area continue to have access to high quality EMS care.”

The disagreement surrounds the quality of EMS the town has been able to provide since the province decided to move to a central dispatch system several years ago.

Under the new system a central communications centre out of Edmonton controls the dispatching of the ambulances in the region. This has resulted in more and more ambulances from Bonnyville and Cold Lake being dispatched out of the region to deal with calls elsewhere in the province.

Bonnyville, like many other northern Alberta communities, has been dealing with an increasing number of hours in “code red”, where there are no ambulances in the town to serve the residents. This results in the community having to rely on other services to help backfill the service calls in town, which has led to lengthier arrival times.

EMS services in Bonnyville are currently provided through a contract with the Bonnyville Regional Fire Authority, which funds three advanced life-support ambulances and one basic life-support ambulances, according to AHS.

The meeting on Feb. 29 with the BRFA, Sobolewski and MD of Bonnyville Reeve Ed Rondeau focused around this service.

“They certainly understand our position. We want to work it out and move forward,” said Sobolewksi, who has been pleased with the cooperation of Minister Sarah Hoffman and Alberta Health.

Hoffman, the new Minister of Health, has been very involved in the conversations around the EMS services in Bonnyville, taking the time to talk to the mayor and ensure the meeting with AHS was held so the town could address their issues.

“We were recently involved in a discussion with stakeholders from AHS and Bonnyville related to EMS service,” said Alberta Health in a statement to the Nouvelle. “We want to make sure all Albertans have access to high quality health services – including EMS. We will continue to listen, and to work with AHS and the community to track where the system is working and where there may be room for improvement.”

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