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Willow Creek MD to look into ambulance licence for Claresholm, Nanton, Fort Macleod

The MD of Willow Creek, frustrated with ambulance wait times, will research an ambulance licence for delivery to Claresholm, Nanton, and Fort Macleod.
Council made the decision Jan. 28 after a report by emergency medical services manager Travis Coleman.
Coleman reported the number of medical responses by the five fire departments in the municipality are increasing, particularly in Claresholm and Fort Macleod.
Since June 1 the MD of Willow Creek has been part of a pilot project with Alberta Health Services to use three medical response units in Claresholm, Nanton and Fort Macleod, which are outfitted as ambulances.
Coleman said in 2014 a total of four patients were transported — two in Claresholm and two in Fort Macleod, by the response units.
Coleman noted Alberta Health Services’ objectives for this pilot program are to have quarterly meetings and to meet with the MD of Willow Creek after each medical transport.
“As of now, we haven’t had any meetings,” Coleman said, adding there was a discussion after the first transport.
Coleman also pointed to medical direction, which the MD of Willow Creek received in 2010.
This allows firefighters with additional training in emergency medical services, to use those skills when they are responding to an emergency.
Coleman noted again, there has been no support from Alberta Health Services.
Then Coleman turned his attention to a day, July 26, 2014, that illustrates the situation.
At 9:29 a.m. Station 15, which is the Fort Macleod fire department, responded with two emergency medical technicians and two firefighters responded to a status red patient. EMS transported the patient with Station 15 assisting.
At 10:32 a.m., Station 15 responded with three EMTs and two firefighters to a second patient.
The paramedic rescue unit was on scene and the patient was being assessed.
At 11:12 a.m., Station 15 responded with two EMTs and four firefighters to a third patient, and they started assessing the patient.
The paramedic abandoned the second patient to help the third patient, because they were waiting for an ambulance from Lethbridge.
Claresholm went to the second call and Lethbridge was re-routed for the third call.
At 11:29 a.m., Station 14 responded with two EMTs and two firefighters to a fourth patient. This time Nanton went out.
The crew was split to attend to the fourth patient, and at noon the unit arrived to transport the patient.
Coleman then turned his attention to the Town of Raymond. Their mayor met with the minister of health looking for a pilot program like the one involving the MD of Willow Creek.
Alberta Health Services provided the units, equipment, training, and wages for responding and standby time, none of which the MD of Willow Creek has received.
Coleman has heard Alberta Health Services has prevented the MD of Willow Creek from transporting patients, such as on July 26, because it wants the pilot project to fail.
Coleman shared comments he has received from Alberta Health Services staff saying the solution is for an integrated system; burn-out is happening; Alberta Health Services is not community-minded; jobs have been threatened; the non-ambulatory or response units are not being used; and there are not enough ambulances to cover the communities.
Coleman went on to share specific comments about ambulance issues such as the fact ambulances are moved between communities, such as Blairmore to Nanton, leaving Blairmore with no ambulance; there are no options to re-route ambulances; and ambulances being shut down as they cannot be staffed.
Coleman shared dispatch issues, such as a disconnect between dispatch and the community; patching between fire and ambulance is not working; and “Calgary dispatch is destroying the system.”
Coleman also shared staff comments regarding staff such as the mismanagement of staff with locals being displaced; shifts being covered by staff other than locals; staff driving to another town for a shift; overtime costs exploding; there is no work-life balance as staff are on call over the whole region not just locally; and pay stubs are consistently in error.
Coleman said the solution going forward is an integrated fire and EMS service managed by the MD of Willow Creek.
Coleman noted they have been on scene of numerous motor vehicle collisions where there have been critically injured people and have had to wait for ambulances to come from three different towns while the municipality’s unit is on scene.
“This is having a profound effect on our fire departments,” MD of Willow Creek chief administrative officer Cynthia Vizzutti said.
“Our EMTs and EMRs are covering AHS all the time,” Reeve Neil Wilson said.
Coleman then cited the example of responding to a call in Fort Macleod, which was virtually across the street from the hospital, but they were unable to transport the patient.
In fact, the patient saw no distinction between the level of care of the fire department and Alberta Health Services.
Coleman concluded by saying the pilot project ends May 31, and requesting council authorize administration to research an ambulance licence for delivery to Claresholm, Nanton, and Fort Macleod, which council did.