Opposition members have recently been questioning the province’s record in the legislature since the ambulance take-over, and Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Gary Bikman believes some headway has been made in recognizing there are problems with the system.
“We’ve really been hitting them, if you follow our activities in Question Period, and the messages we’ve been getting over to Health Minister Fred Horne, and we have some people that are working within the system now that have been providing us information about the dysfunction, so we can get specifics to the minister, so that he’s got more to go on. I don’t always think he gets the full story, I think he’s somewhat shielded from some of the harsher truths. That’s the job of the opposition — not to be harsh, but to share the harsh truth. He appears to have gotten some of the message, and he’s suggested that he’s going to take a look at and review some of the issues that we’ve talked about with regard to rural ambulances in particular.”
Concerns over inter-facility transfer for patients that might not require a full-fledged ambulance service appear to have been taken into consideration by the minister, according to Bikman.
“Some of the issues remain — central dispatch — and some concerns about that. One of the things that we’re most pleased to see that he’s heard, is the inter-facility transfer issue. Having an ambulance and two personnel tied up to do a transfer that isn’t an emergency in the typical sense — it’s merely a person that needs to get from one facility to another facility for evaluation or some kind of procedure.”
“They don’t need the skill and technical capability of the people involved, or the cost of the ambulance to move them there.”
Bikman noted a substantial cost-savings could be possible for patients that don’t require an ambulance.
“When it was left in the hands of local people, the smaller and larger jurisdictions were using passenger van-type vehicles. It was an awful lot cheaper and a lot more cost-effective for inter-facility transfers.”
“So they appear to have been listening, and hopefully will go back to aspects of a system that worked, and that wasn’t broken until they broke it by trying to improve it. So we’re pleased about that.”
Questions and concerns still linger for Bikman with regard to ambulances that are sometimes “flexed” to other jurisdictions.
“There are still some concerns about the effects of central dispatch on getting ambulances ‘flexed’ to other jurisdictions, and leaving their own local jurisdiction — their own people and citizens — without coverage. You’re getting situations where injured or ill patients are waiting, sometimes up to three quarters of an hour or more, before an ambulance can get to them. That’s well beyond acceptable, and well beyond what the local volunteer ambulances were doing for so many years. That was really a system that worked, and I’m not sure if I can express in polite language what I think of that change, but it’s certainly been a degradation of service, and it’s putting our rural people at risk.”