Monday, June 27, 2011

ECCA - Was it done right?

The Health Quality Council of Alberta (HQCA) released a report in April of 2011, titled "Review of the Safety Implications for Patients Requiring Medevac Services to and from the Edmonton International Airport". ... phew.. long title huh? The report was requested by the Minister of Alberta Health and Wellness and you will note that at the bottom of each page in this report, are the words "Promoting and improving patient safety and health service quality across Alberta".

Reports are a cool thing. You ask for something, they give you information on what you asked for. And now that you have all of this cool information, you can run with it. BUT... WHAT IF what you asked for, wasn't what you were really wanting. Or even worse... what if you asked for a report to only give what you want so that any decisions based on that report, are slanted in the direction you want them to go in?

We have seen this all before. Electrical deregulation, selling Epcor stuff, the need to have new power lines (aka Bill 50) and oh yes, how to handle closing the City Center Airport. The truth of the matter is ... the reports are meaningless. They never used to be but they sure are now, in today's politics. Both the City of Edmonton and the Province of Alberta have abused the "report" thing so badly we just can't really believe many of them.

With that said, this report actually starts to bring out some of the truth about just how BAD moving medevac services to EIA is. As you read through the report, you almost get the feeling it's saying "those arrogant idiots in the City are putting lives at risk". And you would be 100% right.

Lets go back to September of 2010 where an article titled "Stelmach 'Nothing moves' on closure of municipal airport" appeared in the Edmonton Sun.

"Nothing moves until all options are discussed to make sure that there is no compromise of the Medevac services that we have in the province of Alberta, and I'm serious on that point," Stelmach said.

I suspect there may be more truth to that, than expected. Because you see, "nothing moves" even means that the medevac flights themselves have been grounded. And why is this? When the City stated they were going to close one of the runways, the Regional Airport Authority (those folks who failed to do their jobs over the years in dealing with this airport) specifically stated to City Council... DO NOT CLOSE THE MEDEVAC RUNWAY. And the City never listened. They wanted to prove THEY were God and could do what THEY wanted to, and closed the only runway best suited for medevac services. And where was the Provincial Government, and Stelmach when this happened? Clearly, they were hiding.

Another quote from the same Sun article...

"The province has authority over where Medevac flights go. Medevac flights in the Edmonton-area currently use both the City Centre and International airports, but there is a long-term plan to consolidate services at one airfield."

Someone from the Alberta Government should have stepped in and stopped this runway from being closed, and they did not. And in the Fall of 2010, Edmonton was strapped in with some bad weather. If you follow Murphy's Law, then you know that the Hospital in Grande Prairie had an urgent need to transport a critically ill baby to Edmonton. A call was made to dispatch that flight, and due to weather conditions the medevac flight was not able to leave immediately. It took several hours before the weather allowed the option for the flight to leave, and when they called to say they were on their way, the doctors had to cancel the request. They knew that by the time the medevac flight arrived, it would have been too late. The windows of opportunity to save this baby's life, had disappeared. Had that runway not been closed, the medevac flight could have taken off, due to different rules allowing that runway to have been used. Would the baby have survived if it had been taken in time? Sadly, we will never know. The baby died. And YES, several city councilors WERE informed of this.

Now, considering the above, one would think that both the City of Edmonton and the Province of Alberta could be culpable in the death of this child. I have been trying to determine who the parents are, without luck. I strongly suspect they were only told "due to weather conditions in Edmonton, the medevac flight was not able to depart in time" ... ... if they only knew the truth.

If Stelmach had ANY guts, he would have called Mandel when he KNEW they were going to close the medevac runway. But no... So now the question is, with this new HQCA review will the Alberta Government now do the right thing and force the City to re-open this runway? It seems like they have the legal power to do so. But then... that would take guts. Doing the right thing...

Take a read through the HQCA report. Are we going to let our medical services go from being one of the best around, to being one of the worst around? The City Center Airport should have never been closed. Had the Regional Airport Authority done it's JOB there would be a lot more activity at the CCA. Not necessarily from increased flights either. And don't think for a minute that you won't need those services because you live in Edmonton. You do drive, travel, visit... same as your friends and family and their friends and their families.

Oh... one more thing to think about. At the start of this I stated the "thing" about reports. Do note, this recent HQCA report does NOT include the number of medevac flights that were missed, and the reasons and results. Careful what you ask for...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Downtown Arena - By the Numbers plus CFR Thoughts

For the “311” numbers, I was told that there has been a steady number of callers that have opposed the arena, with very few calls in support. That is, until the Oilers last two home games, where announcements were made asking people to call into 311, at which point spikes happened for the first few days (about 1200 calls), and then went way down, came up again for a few days (with about another 900 calls), and then went way down again. With that said, there has been about 2500 calls in support of the arena, and 1700 calls against. In addition, there have been approximately 300 calls that might support it, but only under certain conditions. For the people who think that perhaps the Oilers tried to “buy” a few votes, those caller numbers were about 2100 of the 2500, leaving really only about 400 who are in favor. Allowing for “grace” for people who might have normally called in to support the Oilers, say 10%… lets add in another 250 which makes those values around 650 in favor, compared to the steady stream of 1700 against.

From calls made directly to councilor offices, and since the numbers from the 7 members or assistants that I spoke with are consistently the same from those 7, it’s safe to presume the remaining folks would likely be close to the same. The overall numbers of the calls have been in the range of 95-100 percent who have been against ANY taxpayer funds going into the arena. (Truth be told, the lowest figure I was given was 98% but to be "fair" I stated 95%.)

The contract with the Canadian Finals Rodeo event, between the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association and Northlands, expires after the 2016 event. The CFR will continue to be at Rexall no matter what transpires with the proposed arena complex. Here are some things you should be thinking about...

1)    It is common knowledge that the animals involved, are housed at Northlands during the evening, and “as required”. This is a short trip of a kilometer or less and as a result, the stress on those animals is kept to a bare minimum. Clearly, the welfare of the animals is of great importance to everyone.
2)    IF… the CFR were to be held at a new downtown arena, the transportation of these animals would be considerably more difficult. With only 350 parking stalls available, the space these large track trailer units need for maneuvering, the additional distance these big units would have to travel through city streets to gain access to Northlands to house them… think about how that can be accomplished, think about how the CFR considers the animal welfare, and ask yourself, if you were going to decide who would get the next contract...  “is this where we want to be”.
3)    Calgary will certainly bid AGAIN to host the CFR. You have to know they will bid strongly.
4)    Other events in the past, for the World Championships (which is the National Finals Rodeo), had been held year after year in Oklahoma City. When their contract came up, they lost it to Las Vegas. This is just a reminder that having the CFR here in Edmonton, under a new contract to start in 2017, is no where NEAR a “sure thing”.
5)    The Canadian Professional Rodeo Association is currently pleased with the locational proximity of the event being held in Rexall, and the animals being housed at NorthLands. They also like the setup in Calgary, where the animals can be held in the Stampede grounds infield area.