An ambulance is shown in Edmonton, Alberta on Friday Feb. 28, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Judge grants interim injunction to Alberta government in EMS dispatch dispute

The judge called it a novel argument

A judge says a northern municipality must resume transferring emergency medical calls to a provincial dispatch centre by noon on Saturday.

Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Kent Davidson heard a joint application from Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services, which delivers health care in the province, to require the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo to send medical calls to AHS dispatch.

He granted an interim injunction until the full case can be heard.

“The public interest weighs very heavily in this case,” Davidson said Friday in his decision.

“There is a strong public interest in the enforcement of the law and … the position of the applicant in this matter seems to be stronger.”

The municipality, which includes Fort McMurray, stopped transferring calls at noon Thursday after its council decided the provincial ambulance dispatch service is putting patients at risk due to delays and confusion.

It came after the province consolidated emergency medical dispatch services to save money, and forced Red Deer, Calgary, Lethbridge and Wood Buffalo to make the change in January despite their objections.

Lawyers for the government argued Friday that Wood Buffalo wasn’t following the Emergency Health Services Act by refusing to send calls to the provincial dispatch centre.

“The municipality appears to be acting illegally,” said Sean McDonough, who represented Alberta Health.

“They may think it’s better policy on their end, but … there’s a strong case it’s not lawful.”

Chris Davis, a lawyer for Wood Buffalo, argued it’s in the public interest for the municipality to keep handling emergency medical calls through its dispatch centre, which also deals with fire calls.

“The regional municipality has been operating a dispatch centre since 1979,” he said. “It’s only been in the last three weeks where we haven’t operated a dispatch centre for EMS purposes.”

Davis suggested that the municipality can operate it legally under a separate piece of legislation called the Emergency 911 Act.

The judge called it a novel argument.

“It’s clear that Alberta Health Services and Alberta Health were unaware of this argument up until today,” said Davidson, noting the municipality should have an opportunity to flush it out further.

The hearing for a permanent injunction was set for March 9-12.

Mayor Don Scott of the regional municipality said he respects Friday’s decision.

“This does not mean the province is better at dispatching ambulances,” he said in a statement. “It just means that the provincial government is willing to force us to comply.”

Scott said he’s concerned the temporary decision will negatively affect patient outcomes in the region.

“Wood Buffalo has a proud history of resilience and solidarity, and in this unprecedented situation, I appreciate that the court of public opinion weighs heavily in our favour,” he said. “I remain resolved to continue this fight in the courts of Alberta.”

Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Jason Kenney

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

file photo
County Council discusses new tax incentives for non-residential properties

County of Wetaskiwin Council discussed new tax incentives for non-residential properties at… Continue reading

Screen grab/ Government of Alberta COVID-19 aggregate data map
City of Wetaskiwin down to just five active cases

Active COVID-19 cases in the City of Wetaskiwin continue to decline.

Alberta's chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says Albertans need to keep making safe choices to start bending the curve back down. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
One new COVID-19 death in Red Deer, 257 additional cases province-wide

Red Deer sits at 459 active cases of the virus

File photo
Norris Beach Road Tender Approved

County of Wetaskiwin Council awarded the tender for Range Road 11 to Crow Enterprises Ltd.

A health-care worker looks at a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Palais de Congress site as Quebec begins mass vaccinations based on age across the province, Monday, March 1, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Nearly 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses arriving in Canada this week: Anand

Anita Anand says she’s received assurances from the vaccine manufacturer

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

Maskwacis virtual job fair
MEC goes virtual with job fair and services during pandemic

By Chevi Rabbit For Ponoka News Maskwacis Employment Center’s (MEC’s) semi-annual job… Continue reading

hands
The call is out in Rimbey to sign on with a group that is all about building connections

‘Already, we are building a network where we can rely on each other and help each other out’

FILE - Dolly Parton arrives at the 61st annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Grammy-winning singer, actor and humanitarian posted a video on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, of her singing just before getting her COVID-19 vaccine shot. Parton donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee for coronavirus research. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
‘Vaccine, vaccine’: Dolly sings ‘Jolene’ rewrite before shot

The Grammy-winning legend turned 75 this year

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland speaks about the Fiscal update during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday November 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
COVID-19: Wage and rent subsidies, lockdown support to be extended until June

Chrystia Freeland says now is not time to lower levels of support

Many rural seniors are having to travel a long way to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Stettler residents are being told to go to Red Deer, Drumheller or Camrose. (Black Press file photo).
Rural central Alberta seniors have to travel far to get vaccines

Stettler residents are being directed to Red Deer, Drumheller or Camrose clinics

Samantha Sharpe, 25, was stabbed to death at Sunchild First Nation on Dec. 12, 2018. Chelsey Lagrelle was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for manslaughter in a Red Deer courtroom on Tuesday. Photo contributed
Central Alberta woman sentenced to 4 1/2 years for stabbing friend to death in 2018

Chelsey Lagrelle earlier pleaded guilty to stabbing Samantha Sharpe during argument

Calgary police say they received 80 hate crime complaints between January and November 2020. (Pixabay)
‘Racism is a real problem:’ Muslim women fearful following attacks in Edmonton

So far in 2021, three of seven hate-crime-related investigations have involved Somali-Muslim women

Most Read