Community Stories

Changes to ambulance dispatch is risking lives

January 18, 2021

Last week, on January 12, 2021, in midst of a global pandemic, the Province of Alberta decided to worsen the quality of local emergency health care that every Albertan depends on for themselves and their loved ones.

The City of Red Deer is disappointed and is extremely concerned that the removal of local emergency ambulance dispatch from Red Deer will mean delays in care for our residents, in medical emergencies where seconds count.

In August, the Province announced it would consolidate ambulance dispatch; removing municipal integrated dispatch centres from Red Deer, Calgary, Lethbridge and Wood Buffalo to centralized consolidated centres run by Alberta Health Services; reducing the total number of dispatch centres in Alberta from seven to three.

The consolidation of ambulance dispatch means three potential emergency response changes for all Albertans:

  1. The end of integrated emergency response (a partnership between fire and ambulance that Alberta was once a leader in).
  2. A degradation of emergency response (dispatch calls will take longer and fire medics will no longer be quickly dispatched to attend emergency scenes when ambulances are unavailable).
  3. Albertans will be left to wonder what future emergency service changes will be on the heels of the imminent cuts to 911 ambulance dispatch.

The four municipalities sounded the alarm by working tirelessly to try to change the minds of the Minister of Health and the Premier to stop this decision and prevent ambulance calls from leaving our local centres. Our pleas were ignored, and now Red Deer and Central Alberta’s ambulance calls are being sent to a dispatcher in Calgary instead of to a local dispatcher with Red Deer Emergency Services. This has already caused delays in medical response times.

When someone calls 9-1-1, it is the worst day of their life. In that moment, they expect to speak to a dispatcher that knows the local area, and they expect the quickest possible response time. Unfortunately, this expectation is no longer reality in Red Deer, and the decision by the Province to remove integrated dispatch could mean the difference between life and death.

Since 1962, Red Deer has operated an integrated dispatch centre for fire and ambulance. Our dispatch centre is internationally recognized for excellence, and was a model system for the rest of Canada. One of the reasons the Province wanted to consolidate dispatch was to save money. However, we have offered to pay the Province to retain ambulance dispatch without a property tax increase, yet our request has gone unanswered.

We continue our plea to the Province to reverse this dangerous decision in the interest of public health and safety of all Albertans. Over the past week, the Mayors and Fire Chiefs from Red Deer, Calgary, Lethbridge and Wood Buffalo spoke in solidarity on provincial talk shows, primetime television, and hosted a press conference voicing concern against the decision that gambles patient outcomes. Each of these pleas can be heard at the links below:

If you remain concerned about the degradation of emergency medical care you will now receive because of this change, please let your voice be heard. Contact your local MLA, the Minister of Health or the Premier. Contact information, and a form letter is available at The City of Red Deer will take ambulance dispatch back, if given the opportunity by the Province. Your voice matters.

More information is available at