Alberta medical oversight body declines to investigate EMS dispatch consolidation

Alberta’s ombudsman has said she will not investigate the independent Alberta EMS dispatch consolidation because there is no jurisdiction.

As part of the consolidation, the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) system was merged into North Services and Provincial Coordinator Operations. EMS staff from approximately 15 specialized call centres were shifted to regional hubs to meet the expansion.

Faced with concerns from service users and elected officials that the province breached the Medical Professional Disciplinary Act, the Office of the Alberta Ombudsman sent a letter to Health Minister Sarah Hoffman asking for an investigation into the alleged mismanagement of the Health Services Organization, the Insurance Corporation of Alberta, the Provincial Coordinator Operations and the Emergency Medical Services organization.

Based on recommendations and comments from the Minister’s Task Force on the Consolidation, the Ombudsman’s letter said the Department of Health “should be commended for placing the safety of patients first in the implementation of the consolidated Emergency Medical Services organization.”

“While we appreciate the efforts of the Minister’s Task Force, we now believe that some important aspects of this challenge cannot be addressed by investigating either EMS dispatch or the Health Services Organization,” wrote Alberta Ombudsman Merwan Saher in the letter dated June 6.

“From the very beginning, the Alberta Ombudsman has been clear that we are not in a position to investigate or review the Emergency Medical Services organization or Health Services Organization because they are not direct functions of the Office of the Alberta Ombudsman. We recognize that the collection of complex information and data from different agencies and health regions will be a complex process that may ultimately benefit from an oversight body like Health Services Organization.”

The Alberta Ombudsman also commented on its previous letter in June.

“We are concerned that the timeline set for work on the large number of inquiries and investigations did not coincide with the requirement of the draft Health Services Organization report to be completed by the Minister,” wrote the Ombudsman.

“Until after the completion of the second draft, we expect that Health Services Organization staff will remain confident in the integrity of the information being collected as the Ministry reviews them and finalizes the report. With the expectation that the process will take at least two months, it is unlikely that we will have all the information we require before the Minister’s scheduled review of the report.”

As a consequence, the Provincial Coordinator Operations has now been invited to review the prepared materials for the report.

It is unclear whether another independent investigative group has been appointed.

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