Ambulance future cloudy over deficit

Reduced emergency calls and rising costs are throwing the Eckville ambulance service into jeopardy.
But area municipalities have rejected pleas to extend a financial lifeline.
On Tuesday, York County council became the latest municipality to turn down a request to increase funding for the troubled ambulance service.
Councillor Stan Bell said the county signed a contract with the Town of Eckville a year ago for basic ambulance service at a cost of $11,005.
“It is a contract they are supposed to abide by. They had a budget,” said Bell.
Last month, Eckville requested an additional $4,509 to help cover an expected $29,000 shortfall.
Eckville and District Ambulance serves the northwest part of York County, including about 700 people in the Benalto and Evarts areas.
The ambulance is also contracted to serve parts of Clearwater and Lacombe counties. Those counties have previously refused to contribute a share of the shortfall.
Eckville town administrator Therese Kleeberger said the number of emergency calls is expected to be lower this year, based on a seven per cent reduction last year.
Mayor Helen Posti said she’s glad fewer people are becoming ill and injured, but it means less revenue from ambulance fees and charges.
At the same time, costs will be higher because of increased prices of fuel, insurance and rental accommodations for part-time employees.
Last year the deficit totalled about $25,000, which was absorbed by the town.
Posti said the ambulance committee, which comprises most of council, will discuss the future of the ambulance service before the end of June.
One of the options will be to close down the service next year. The service has been operating for more than 30 years.
“Losing the service will be a great loss to the area,” she said.
Response times could be longer if out-of-town ambulance services receive the contract, fears Posti.
Next year, York County plans to provide advanced life support in the area. Advanced life support is a higher level of care than the basic life support currently provided by Eckville. Whether Eckville has the resources to provide advanced life support is questionable.
The ambulance service would not survive financially if it lost any of the three counties contracting services, Posti said.
York county is also served by the City of York and Guardian Ambulance of Innisfail.