EMS citizens action group (CAG) chair Brian Winter looks at the recently acquired EMS unit readiness analysis and shakes his head.

Statistics indicate EMS crews are completing an average of 15.4 interfacility transfers a week--800 a year--when they should instead be ready to respond to life-threatening EMS calls, says Winter.

CAG believes it makes more sense for the province to use qualified contractors to complete these transfers.

According to AHS statistics, there's 10 immediate or potentially life-threatening 9-1-1 events in the Cochrane area each week. Typically. there's one call a week when there are no Cochrane units in town, and two times weekly when an out-of-community unit is covering to respond. When they're here, response time is typical under seven and a half minutes. When they aren't, response time can be up to 19 minutes.


"Something's got to give," says Winter. "Like, it doesn't take rocket science to figure this thing out, and someone's going to die. Someone's going to lose their life because our e-cars are doing non-emergency transfers."

It's one of the four pillars recommended by CAG to fix the province's ambulance system. The province agrees but as of yet, Winter says there has been no action. He expressed this concern with Premier Danielle Smith during her Feb. 24 call-in show that aired in both Calgary and Edmonton.

Winter told the premier of a recent emergency in Diamond Valley, where they have only ambulance.

"They're on a routine transfer to a hospital and a delta call comes in, and I understand Calgary had to attend. I said that's unacceptable and basically, we need to engage the private industry to take over these non-emergency transfers. Basically, she said she'll have my senior level of management look into it. I was hoping to get a phone call today (Feb. 26) and I haven't got a phone call from anyone regarding our talk on the radio on Saturday."

Premier Smith said the non-ambulance transfer process was created when R. J. Sigurdson was her EMS parliamentary secretary, and it worked for only a few months before starting to regress.

Smith believes structural changes within the EMS administrative structure should assist in fixing the problem.

"We'll see if we can address it quickly, but the diagnosis is absolutely right. We need to do a different type of transfer rather than using our acute care ambulances,” said Smith.

The local CAG has been promoting the use of Cochrane-based Medsource to respond to these calls and participated in the Feb. 13 grand opening of its new expanded location on Railway St. E.

"I know MedSource put in a request, and he hasn't heard back. A company in Calgary that's doing one-off transfers hasn't heard anything. So, what's taking so long? That's my question."

Winter says he plans to continue phoning into the premier's radio show (held every two weeks) to get an update and to promote the four pillars they believe will fix the problem. The other three are ending the flexing of local ambulances to other communities other than in exceptional circumstances, ending hospital wait times, and ensuring ensure ambulance crews return to base at the end of their shift 95 per cent of the time.

All four have been passed along to the premier, cabinet ministers, and high-ranking bureaucrats.  

"It would be nice to get the point where everything's resolved, and our Cochrane EMS committee is no longer needed."