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

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw asked Albertans to limit travel throughout the province as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Red Deer nears 900 active COVID-19 cases

Province reports additional 2,211 COVID-19 cases

Photo (STAR Catholic Logo)
STAR Catholic School Division declines running pilot on K-6 draft curriculum

The Catholic school board conducted an in-depth analysis of the Education Alberta’s draft curriculum

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr speaks to chamber members over Zoom on April 27. (Screenshot)
MLA Ron Orr fields diverse questions during ‘A Business Conversation’

The Lacombe and District Chamber of Commerce hosted A Business Conversation with MLA Ron Orr

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta reports 2,271 new COVID-19 cases, Red Deer cases rise slightly

Across Alberta, there are 666 people in hospital with COVID-19, including 146 in the ICU

Alberta Health Services locked the Whistle Stop Cafe at Mirror on Wednesday morning after owner Christopher Scott refused to comply with health orders.
Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff
AHS shuts down Whistle Stop Cafe for defying health orders

Health inspectors and RCMP locked doors early Wednesday

FILE - In this March 3, 2021, file photo, a vial of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is displayed at South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine can be given to adults 30+ who can’t wait for mRNA: NACI

Panel says single shot vaccine can be especially useful for populations unable to return for second shot

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

People line up outside an immunization clinic to get their Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hospital investigating whether Alberta woman who died after AstraZeneca shot was turned away

Woman was taken off life support 12 days after getting vaccine

Two passengers were recently fined thousands of dollars after they faked their pre-flight COVID-19 test results. (Paul Clarke/Black Press)
2 passengers in Canada fined thousands for faking pre-flight COVID-19 tests

The government issued a warning Thursday to others thinking of doing the same – do it and you’ll be ordered to pay

A wild rabbit grazes in Nanaimo, B.C. in this Feb.2, 2018 photo. Rabbit owners in Alberta are being warned about a deadly virus that was identified in a southern Alberta household last month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dirk Meissner
‘Like a flash fire:’ Rabbit owners warned about outbreak of deadly disease in Alberta

The disease is confined to rabbits and cannot spread to humans

A lady wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada may find it challenging to reach herd immunity from COVID-19, experts say

Level of immunity among the population changes with the variants, especially the more transmissible strains

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Dip in COVID-19 cases with 572 newly announced in B.C.

No new deaths have been reported but hospitalized patients are up to 481, with 161 being treated in intensive care

A dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination is prepared at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine approved for kids 12 to 15 years old in Canada

The vaccine was previously authorized for anyone at least 16 years of age or older

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to speakers appearing by video during a news conference in Ottawa on Tuesday May 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada will align policy on ‘vaccine passports’ with international allies: Trudeau

Trudeau says Canadians could begin travelling outside the country again by summer

Most Read