Alberta’s new health super board will take all ambulance services away from cities and municipalities, said Health Minister Ron Liepert during a surprise announcement at the Legislature yesterday.
The Tory government originally promised to make the move three years ago after years of studies and reports, but the decision was delayed after yearly costs soared well over an original $55 million estimate.
Liepert says the plan has been “studied to death” and its time has come.
“Ambulance service is health care and as such, should be part of the health care system,” said Liepert.
“We will increase funding and provide leadership to ensure the transition is as seamless as possible.”
The province currently pays municipalities $128 million in funding and municipalities and patients share the remaining $190 million in costs. After April 1, 2009, the province will cover 90 per cent of a patient’s ambulance bill.
“We’ve always believed that ambulance service is a provincial role,” said Mayor Stephen Mandel from Quebec in a teleconference with reporters yesterday. “It is a role that we’ve paid for and burdened our residential taxpayers and it is substantial issue of money each year.”
Edmonton will save $9.6 million a year with the move, and $2.4 million would be saved next year after the new ambulance model comes into effect, says city manager Al Maurer.
Don’t expect to see any reduction in city administration’s suggestion of a 9.4 per cent tax hike next year, however, since the savings are already included in the proposed 2009 budget, said Maurer.
The move also gives paramedics the option to drop patients at medical clinics rather than just emergency wards in situations where emergency medical attention is not required. –