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Municipalities seek more funds for ambulance services

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Monday, June 4, 2012

The NWT Association of Communities (NWTAC) is calling on the territorial government to provide more funding for ambulance services operated by municipalities.

The association passed a motion to that effect at its annual general meeting May 10 to 13 in Norman Wells.

It urges the GNWT to develop and implement a formal, multi-year contribution program to allow municipalities to continue offering essential emergency services.

In addition, it calls for a contribution program to be flexible to allow municipalities to use the funding for equipment/supplies, operation and maintenance, and capital funding related to servicing territorial highways.

Fort Smith Mayor Janie Hobart said there are two issues with ambulances.

"One is the ground ambulance issue and that's for ambulance service outside of our municipal boundaries," she said. "We have a concern about financial support because we have a huge area that we cover, because we cover halfway to Hay River. So to have our vehicles out of the community is not a good thing just in case they are needed in town."

For the ambulance service in Fort Smith, halfway to Hay River is about 130 kilometres.

Hobart said the second issue is ambulance service in the NWT lacks a structure similar to fire departments, which have a territorial fire marshal and regional assistant fire marshals.

"All of the training and the processes that are involved with fire departments go through one department with the Government of the Northwest Territories," she said. "With ambulance services, there are three departments that are involved and that's very confusing."

The three departments are Transportation, Municipal and Community Affairs, and Health and Social Services.

"Many of us feel that there should be an office in the same way you have a territorial fire marshal," Hobart said.

The mayor added there is also a lack of co-ordination for training for both ambulance services on highways or inside communities.

As for funding, she said, "We're very fortunate that we have as many volunteers as we have, but there's close to 400 ambulance calls a year in the town of Fort Smith alone. It strains our resources."

Currently, the GNWT support to municipalities for ambulance services is included in block funding.

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