The Cochrane EMS Citizen Action Group has finalized its terms of reference that include targets they believe will assure Cochrane has adequate emergency ambulance coverage.
Chair Brian Winter, who is a retired paramedic. says they've been meeting regularly for three months to determine how best to tackle the issue.
"The bottom line is that we want to keep our two units in Cochrane. Currently, we're flexing. We're going into the city, which means the citizens of Calgary are more important than Cochrane, which is not true."
He says Cochrane's frontline paramedic units are being used to take non-emergency patients into Calgary, and are then left there waiting.
"I have been there with some of my family members, and have seen five, six, eight 10 units lined up in the hallway. I've talked to paramedics who have spent a whole shift there, which is unacceptable."
The terms of reference set out the committee's purpose, expectations, committee membership, and include eight success targets.
They want EMS response times collected and published each month.
They want to see 90 per cent of Delta/Echo calls (urgent life-threatening emergencies) within the town limit responded to within eight minutes, and those in rural Alberta within 12 minutes.
They don't want to see emergency ambulance crews transferring non-urgent patients outside of Cochrane. They say other methods of transportation exist.
Emergency ambulance crews based in Cochrane should no longer be kept in hospital ER hallways waiting with patients. Instead, they want these crews to transfer the care of their patients at hospital triage and clear the hospital promptly.
When they do leave the hospital, they should not be made available for calls in other communities and instead return to Cochrane.
They also want emergency ambulance crews to be able to confirm to the Citizen Action Group that they are trained, rested, and have a confirmed hour utilization rate of less than 60 per cent.
"If we do all eight items that are on our terms of reference, we'll consider ourselves successful. We feel it's going to take a little time, but people are dying."
"We've got some challenges. We've got a good group of people, very dedicated. We've got our mayor and council member on board to keep us in the political loop, and we're going to make changes."
They've also launched a Facebook group named Cochrane EMS Crisis - Citizen Action Group you can find here.
He says they are asking people to share both their good and bad EMS experiences.
Similar citizen action committees have been formed in other nearby municipalities. He believes by coming together, they will force the province to listen.
Winter says the government's recent announcement of hiring more staff is misleading. He says it merely converted part-time staff to full-time.
"What we need is more boots on the ground. We need more units. We need to utilize other ways of transporting non-emergency people into a hospital. Why should a first-line ambulance crew take someone in with a sore knee?"
Winter is a retired paramedic and was key in the creation of Cochrane's first ambulance service.
"We started the ambulance service on July 1, 1983, and it was running well until the government took over. I said to my wife, as soon as the government takes over things, it's going to be a complete fiasco. Twelve years later, that's exactly what's happened."
The citizens' committee results from an EMS town hall held on Aug. 11.