Medical priority considerations for road maintenance

Written by Submitted

The County of Paintearth began their meeting on Tues. Sept. 17 discussing the unwritten rule surrounding medical priorities and the road maintenance policy.

This policy governs public works as to how they tackle road maintenance in poor weather situations.

At the Aug. 20 meeting, council directed administration to research how medical priority consideration might be applied to the recently adopted road maintenance policy.

This reactive arrangement is triggered during a callout and does not speak to keeping access before there is an emergency, which can add time to a medical response and cause a delay in a patients treatment.

In consultation with the East Central Ambulance Association (ECAA), administration confirmed the standing arrangement is that the public works department accommodates requests for assistance from the ECAA based on available resources.

With 10 graders, there are approximately two graders in each division of the county at any given time doing snow clearing.

ECAA found the current system has been effective as “Help is never far away when we need it.”

Similar chats took place between the county and fire departments.

At the council table, administration also mentioned that obtaining and keeping a medical database of residents might be beneficial to alleviating this problem.

This information would be used to identify medical priorities and determines a hierarchy in what is least to most important.

“The majority of them don’t do it. Some [municipalities] will do service fee for an extra service, some will create an allotment of time and say you get so much per winter or so much per event, said Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Michael Simpson.

“If anybody remembers the old flag on the road for the snowplow days, there is that approach as well.”

Council felt this would create a large strain on staff resources and know residents are mostly aware of a neighbour’s health if the situation is severe enough.

“We have to remember that we are a small community and locals kind of know when our neighbours may not be well,” said Coun. Diane Elliott.

Reeve Stan Schulmeister asked, “Are there people that are more concerned that because of where they live and won’t be serviced? Is that what’s bringing this on?

“I mean when you live in Timbuck- two, you know you’ve got to look after yourself a certain amount too,” you can’t just be expecting our guys to be out there at 3:30 in the morning because you got a headache and stuff. If it is an emergency there is STARS,” he said.

“I don’t think the county has any place in the medical conditions,” said Dep. Reeve Doreen Blumhagen.

“No offence but if I were in an emergency I would call my neighbour before I would call the county because it would be faster,” said Blumhagen.

Public Works Director, Bryce Cooke confirmed there are typically one to two calls per winter “if that.”

Council agreed to keep this as an unwritten rule that if a resident did request assistance, the county will oblige.

Bridge repairs deferred

The Lake Thelma, Guse and Rodvang bridges were scheduled to have minor repairs completed by Oct. 31, 2019 with funding already approved from this year’s budget.

Public Works Director Cooke asked to push this deadline by a year to Oct. 31, 2020 after consulting with engineers.

They felt was best to change the completion date as Alberta Transportation has not released any projects for 2020 bridge construction season so contractors are starting to worry about the lack of upcoming projects and have started inquiring about county projects.

He mentioned that moving the completion date may also result in a lower price.

Citizens respond

Gerard and Donna Fetaz submitted a letter to Paintearth about the positives and negatives of their position.

In the letter, it addresses utility policies, fire accessibility and more.

They felt the county could have pressed more to ensure the Tinchebray Substation does not expand because of the risk of fighting fire in a valley.

“We agree with council’s position of ‘greater preference to be given to the northernmost routes proposed’ for the CETO (Central East Transfer Out) Project and we thank you for your support. But we disagree with any further expansion of Tinchebray Substation for the following reasons:

“The County did not ask ATCO what changes they have implemented since the Cordel Substation fire. The fire of 2007 at the Cordel Substation is a major part of all of our concerns about fire risk and safety,” stated the letter.

Currently, ATCO does not assess locations for accessibility to fight fire when considering locations for substations or transmission lines.

“How can anyone (County, AESO and ATCO) consider anything less? To continue to add infrastructure and expand the substation will increase the risk to public safety and property.

“A location that allows for access on all sides and is not next to a valley is to be expected. It should also be noted the mine will close in the near future, the transmission expansion will be with us for generations and the mine will not be here to provide support for fire response.”

The couple encouraged the county to continue asking questions.

“The CETO Project, if it proceeds, will be located in this county, there is no worry of losing the business.

“It is clear the change of provincial government has created a lot of uncertainty; we need to continue to ask questions and provide the new government the feedback that will help everyone make informed decisions.”


Terri Huxley

ECA Review

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