Mayor Jeff Genung says EMS and AHS representatives will be meeting with the new town council sometime after the election.

Genung and Airdrie Cochrane MLA had a virtual one-hour meeting with high-level officials last week to discuss concerns raised locally over ambulance response times. AHS EMS Chief Paramedic Darren Sandbeck, Curtis Swanson, and Randy Bryskaare were among the officials in attendance.

Genung says he was told EMS is facing challenges in four areas.

They have faced a 30 per cent increase in call volumes during the pandemic that's been coupled with fluctuating staff levels, partially due to staff fatigue. There's an ongoing issue of long hospital waits and some challenges in flexing within their borderless dispatch system.

He was told they are attempting to hire more staff but before that occurs the province needs to allot more funding. They're also piloting a program in Edmonton and Calgary to utilize urgent care centres for patients requiring non-emergency medical care.

"They're going to be instituting that in the rural areas, Cochrane included," says Genung. "I had some questions about that. I've heard from some of the doctors, nurses, and health care workers that the urgent care is also a point of concern, so increasing call volume to them is something I'm interested in seeing how it plays out."

He says the data provided indicates the average response time in 2021 is 8 minutes and 14 seconds, but about 10 per cent fall outside of the norm and can take up to 20 minutes.

"I know that there are instances when ambulances are taking longer to get to a call than we would like, but there seems a rational explanation as to why," he says.

"On the flip side, I'm hearing from people involved with the Citizens Action Group that are saying this is more of a norm than what they're sharing. Likely it's somewhere in the middle, but I'm still wading through the data and trying to find where we can insert ourselves as a municipality to make sure residents of Cochrane are safe. That's really my ultimate goal."

"We have an expectation that an ambulance will come in a short period of time when we call 911. We all pay for that service, and if it's not working, then we need to tell our provincial government that it's not and demand change."

He hopes EMS officials will be attending a council meeting shortly after the municipal election.

"The hope is that we can get them in front of our council here in early November so that we can get to our AUMA meeting at the end of November, where I'd like to meet with a couple of ministers and bring it to their attention."

The issue isn't unique to Cochrane and seems to be of particular concern in the outlying areas of the province's major centres.

Resolutions on the topic by both Red Deer and Okotoks will be hitting the floor at the November convention of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA). Cochrane has sent a letter of support for the Okotoks resolution.

MLA Peter Guthrie says he's had discussions with AHS for the last couple of months and came to the meeting with some insight. He wanted town officials to also benefit from the information and looks forward to the town council presentation that will follow.

"I'm very grateful that AHS is going to do that and for to have our council be able to be informed and to be able to ask the tough questions."

He says he doesn't believe in relying strictly upon anecdotal information and values the real statistics of AHS and their analysis.

He says a review is currently underway.

"There's always analyzing their systems, and right now they're analyzing their operating system for this region and looking for ways to improve. That's what good operators do. You're always looking to make improvements within your system to provide the best service possible."

He believes it would be far more beneficial for the meeting with town council to occur after the review is completed.

"It would be great if they made their visit to our council, which I would love to attend after that review is done, so we can really get to the meat of potatoes of what are they doing well, where are the deficiencies, and what's their plan to make improvements."