Saturday, August 31, 2013

AHS EMS takeover without a plan, neither efficient nor economically sustainable

Jim Nicol, Letter to the Editor

Your article has been a long time coming.  Thank you for adding this insightful opinion of Mr. Porter's to a long list of similar complaints across the province over the past 2 to 3 years.

(Editor's note: The article Mr. Nicol is referring to is "Concerns aired about changes to rural ambulance services", written by Rob Vogt and originally published by the Claresholm Local Press.)

I voice concern over a 'hostile takeover' by AHS in the South Zone primarily involving Raymond, but with fallout to Stirling, Magrath, Milk River, Warner, and Coaldale.

 Only 2 years ago, these 5 communities operated proud, successful, locally operated (by volunteers and regular staff), and willingly assisted each other in times that required mutual aid.  Raymond's volunteer ambulance society rostered as many as 21 EMT/EMR's and operated 3 BLS ambulances, with 96% compliance AND operated in the black. Stirling had its funding diverted to Raymond, leaving its 6-10 volunteers and 2 ambulances without license to operate, and the nearest ambulance over 15 minutes away.  Warner recently found a similar fate.  Milk River operated a volunteer service and was one of the first in the area to move to full time staff to respond to about 1 call every two days.  Magrath now outsources it's volunteers and two ambulances to primarily do backup and transfers for the AHS crew out of Raymond.  And finally, Raymond now offers ONE ambulance, with full time staff that respond to approximately 1-2 calls per day, at about three times the cost that the former volunteer crew budgeted.

The examples are now too numerous to ignore, the number of times a casualty within Raymond's town limits, waited over 40 minutes for an ambulance, when the hospital is less than a five minute drive from anywhere in town.  Even 3 years ago, if Raymond asked for Mutual Aid, any of Magrath, Stirling, Coaldale or Lethbridge, could respond within 10 to 20 minutes.

This is all just a summary of what has happened here, particularly in Raymond, since AHS took over Emergency Medical Services.  Many examples can be provided that show that they are providing an inferior service at much greater cost; exactly opposite of the two promises made, over two years ago.

I am completely willing to discuss this further, in as much detail as time permits, citing firsthand examples warranting change, also including Taber and Oyen, in my own service in and with all of the above communities.


Jim Nicol

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