Ombudsman not investigating ambulance consolidation that ‘affects many Albertans’

Alberta’s ombudsman issued a statement Friday that says she does not have the ability to investigate the consolidation of ambulance services in four cities in the province.

But the ombudsman, Marianne Ryan, said “the issue being complained about clearly affects many Albertans.” 

CBC previously reported that Calgary, Lethbridge, Red Deer and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo jointly filed a complaint with the province’s ombudsman in October, over the UCP government’s decision to allow Alberta Health Services (AHS) to consolidate regional ambulance dispatch.

AHS officially brought municipally controlled operations in those cities into previously existing centres in January 2021.

The statement said Ryan has the authority to investigate more than 600 government-related entities, but AHS is not one of them. 

“My office thoroughly analyzed the complaint and confirmed that the decision to consolidate ambulance dispatch services was indeed made by AHS,” Ryan said in a statement. 

“My ability to investigate AHS decisions would require a change in legislation. While the issue being complained about clearly affects many Albertans, I am bound by my governing legislation to only investigate matters that are clearly within my jurisdiction.”

The statement said the ombudsman rarely comments publicly on complaints, especially ones that are not being investigated.

The consolidation was recommended during a review of AHS by external consultants Ernst & Young, which laid the stage for several cost cutting measures.

AHS had said the consolidation would save millions each year and that patients wouldn’t notice the difference.

But first responder groups, like the union representing Calgary firefighters, had expressed concerns that consolidation would cause delays in coordinated responses.

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