Question re: Emergency medical services building - follow up - December 9, 2013

Hansard December 9, 2013

Mr. Silver:   I have a follow-up question in regard to the new EMS facility at the top of Two Mile Hill. The minister told Yukoners last week that discussions with the RCMP about them using the new dispatch centre are ongoing and that has delayed any potential move of EMS dispatch personnel from the current location in Riverdale. It sounds like the government went ahead and built the building without knowing who was going to occupy the dispatch centre.

Usually you don’t custom build something for a client until you have a signed agreement in place with that client. Mr. Speaker, the upstairs dispatch centre at the new EMS is custom built for the RCMP.

Why did the government build it this way without actually having an agreement in place with the RCMP?

Hon. Mr. Cathers:      I’m not sure if the members have had an opportunity to tour the facility. What I would note to the member is that the facility was designed to meet the space requirements for a potential call centre but, of course, if an outcome that we do not expect were to occur and there were to be an issue with the RCMP moving there, we would find other purposes for the space. Again, we do expect that that facility will become a dispatch centre and, because of the stage of those discussions we were at when the facility was designed, it seemed appropriate to accommodate the ability to provide dispatch, both for our own services and for RCMP, in the facility design.

Mr. Silver:   I appreciate the answer, but Mr. Speaker, the government custom-built a dispatch centre for the RCMP with no signed agreement in place. The new building is open and the dispatch centre sits empty, while the government tries to conclude an agreement after the fact.

Currently there are very few, if any, emergency medical services dispatched by the RCMP. This is done now in-house by EMS personnel. What benefit to Yukoners does this government see by transferring these responsibilities for dispatch over to the RCMP? In addition to that, is there any evidence to show that these benefits could actually be achieved?

Hon. Mr. Cathers:      The member has not quite properly understood what is being discussed. We understand the importance of having a shared dispatch service that involves the RCMP, as well as staff of Emergency Medical Services. The discussions and details of this are very technical in nature, and those discussions are ongoing. As I’ve noted previously in the House as well as in the media, we do anticipate that the outcome will be shared dispatch with the RCMP. At this point, as I indicated previously to this House, because right now the design of the facility accommodates neither the RCMP — which is for a secure room that cannot be accessed without the proper keys, et cetera, and which is not currently in place in our existing ambulance station — it would have an impact on dispatch operations if EMS staff were to move up the hill at this point in time, so they will not be moving up at this point in time.

We are continuing to have discussions with the RCMP and are waiting for the results of that before making any moves that would affect dispatch.

Mr. Silver:   Before getting into negotiations with the RCMP, I think it would have been a good idea to actually discuss these possibilities with EMS personnel who currently provide the dispatch services. I’m sure it was news to them that the government was looking to transfer their jobs and possibly themselves to another employer.

The new building is now open, yet dispatch services continue to be handled from the old facility in Riverdale due to a lack of planning by this government. Negotiations with the RCMP that would see them move into the new building and provide dispatch services are still ongoing. A facility custom-built for them remains empty.

Mr. Speaker, what is this government’s plan B, should the RCMP choose not to accept this arrangement?

Hon. Mr. Cathers:      It is unfortunate the way the member is choosing to characterize this. I don’t think he understands the technical details.

The new facility, regardless of what occurs with dispatch, will and has enhanced the response times significantly and enhances our capacity to respond to Whitehorse and the surrounding area. Contrary to what the member has asserted — that people are going to be transferred over to a new employer — it is unfortunate that the member is choosing to start spreading rumours, rather than relying on facts.

In fact, the importance of ensuring that there is stability for our staff is a key consideration in any discussions that occur. Input of staff has resulted in some of the changes to the design of the facility that were made in the final stages — changes the member previously criticized in this House — when, in fact, we were not only making adjustments that provided for fitting out the upstairs but responding to input from staff. The member unfortunately opposed that previously. Again, in this case we do expect discussions with the RCMP to have a positive outcome, but until and unless we are convinced that a change to dispatch will have positive outcomes, dispatch is going to continue to operate exactly as it does right now.