Issues with Ambulance Service Continue to Plague Cold Lake

The Cold Lake Ambulance Society presented City Council with a number of issues that continue to plague the service, including the lack of ambulances for long periods of time in the City; known as Code Reds.

“The Cold Lake Ambulance Society is in a difficult situation,” explains Mayor of Cold Lake, Criag Copeland. Copeland has long advocated that Alberta Health Services (AHS) initiate the use of a forth ambulance in the City of Cold Lake. He has been fighting this issue for a number of years, and recognizes that the service funded by AHS for the region is not adequate for the usage of or need for the service. “The call volume has pretty much gone up 50 percent since 2010 and their funding has not gone up at all,” states the Mayor.

Things aren’t getting better, issues keep multiplying – Craig Copeland Mayor of Cold Lake

For the last few years AHS has held a contract with Cold Lake Ambulance Society, explains Mayor Copeland how the service is funded, “one ambulance is funded 24 hours a day, the other two ambulances are serviced as a flex car. Meaning they’re only to be on duty for four hours at the station, during a 24 hour period. The other 20 hours they are on standby.”

With the call volume increasing having two flex cars and one 24 hour ambulance is no longer feasible, says the Mayor. As well, many flex cars were being used to transfer patients to Edmonton. This resulted in a slew of other issues, included maxing out overtime hours and ambulances being dispatched to calls in Edmonton after admitting a patient to the designated hospital.

“The Cold Lake Ambulance Society, in 2012, switched over to a second car being 24 hours a day,” Mayor Copeland explains there is now one flex car and two full-time ambulances. “Now, what;s happened is the Cold Lake Ambulance Society is struggling on their burn rate. Meaning, revenue coming in versus expenses, their burn rate is about $15,00 a month. They came in front of Council to see if they could get some funding to sustain them for now”

The Cold Lake Ambulance Society is not prepared to throw in the keys – Craig Copeland Mayor of Cold Lake

If the Ambulance Society were to “throw in the keys”, AHS would either take over the service or hand the contract over to a private contractor. Neither option is appealing to the City. “There’s big concern that a private contractor will operate to the level of pay. The concern is that the level of service would deteriorate and put residents in a serious position.”

With no highways past Cold Lake the Mayor points out a mayor problem with the current ambulance structure, “the residents of Cold Lake should understand that at times there is no ambulance in their community and Alberta Health Services is okay with that.”

AHS has suggested that Cold Lake Ambulance Society go back to the one ambulance at 24 hours a day and two flex car structure to help eliminate burn out, says Mayor Copeland. “The Cold Lake Ambulance Society feels this isn’t right and they’re asking for help.”

Mayor Copeland says Council will take the Ambulance Society’s request into Budget Deliberates which get underway this week.


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