Representatives from Alberta Health Services (AHS) Emergency Medical Services (EMS) will be in attendance to provide an update to Cochrane Town Council at the Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday, February 7.
Randy Bryksa, Associate Executive Director with EMS Operations, and Curtis Swanson, Director of Emergency Medical Services, will provide Council with an update on EMS resources starting and stopping in Cochrane, local EMS call volumes and response times, as well as current challenges and mitigation strategies.
“We continue to hear concerns from Cochrane residents regarding the availability of ambulance service in our community,” said Mayor Jeff Genung. “Council shares those concerns and have been actively working to learn more and advocate for solutions. Over the past six months, we have engaged with AHS EMS to gain insight into the current state. In addition to a previous meeting with Mr. Bryksa and Mr. Swanson, we have also brought our concerns forward directly to the Honourable Jason Copping, Minister of Health Services last November.”
The Town requested AHS EMS provide an update at a public Council meeting to not only provide Council the opportunity to learn more and ask questions specific to Cochrane, but also to provide the community an opportunity to learn more about the local impact.
“The service delivery of EMS is relying heavily on municipal resources,” added Genung. “We have been working to better understand the impact we are experiencing with our Fire Services team, who is often being called upon to provide first medical response.”
A recent example of this was a request for assistance in December 2021. Cochrane firefighters arrived on scene to an individual who was not breathing and had no pulse. Firefighters performed CPR and used a defibrillator to revive the individual until EMS arrived on scene, took over patient care and transported the individual to the hospital. The individual has since fully recovered.
“Our fire crews are often called upon to use their medical first response training to provide lifesaving intervention for our community,” says Deputy Fire Chief Wallace. “In this specific case, I’m confident the work of the firefighters, in conjunction with our partners from AHS, saved this individual’s life.”
Cochrane firefighters are trained to a variety of first responder skills, from first aid and CPR all the way to Advanced Care Paramedics. The fire trucks are equipped with a full suite of emergency medical equipment, including defibrillators. They frequently assist their partners from AHS on high priority medical emergencies.
“The additional training that the Town of Cochrane provides to the Fire Services team is an added step that the Town has put in place to ensure the health and safety of our residents. But to be clear, this is a Provincial responsibility that Cochrane taxpayers are currently subsidizing,” said Mayor Genung.
Nearly one decade ago, the Government of Alberta took responsibility for ambulance service. AHS EMS has since responded to calls for emergency medical service for all Albertans. On January 12, 2021, emergency ambulance dispatch was fully consolidated into the AHS provincial dispatch system. Since this time, concerns have been raised regarding increased response times, technical errors, and a lack of ambulance availability. Many municipalities, including the Town of Cochrane, have expressed concerns with this transition.
The Committee of the Whole meeting starts at 5:30PM on Monday, February 7. Residents can tune into the live streamed presentation at Cochrane.ca/councilmeetings.