A controversial recommendation from a former senior officer in the Canadian Army to cut some ambulance services near CFB Shilo has been scrapped.
The recommendation would have prohibited Shilo’s emergency medical service from responding to any call off the base, forcing other stations to pick up the slack.
“I have just been informed that there are no plans to cancel the service,” Brandon-Souris Conservative MP Larry Maguire said Wednesday via telephone from Ottawa just hours after learning the recommendation would be turfed.
“The worst-case scenario would have been someone looking over the fence at an accident and not being able to help them. I’m pleased to tell the residents who rely on these services that they will continue.”
After meeting with representatives from the RMs of Cornwallis and Elton earlier this month, Maguire set up a meeting with Defence Minister Rob Nicholson last week.
Maguire said it was at that meeting that he voiced his support for extending the service.
“It just makes common sense to be able to have the service when it is sitting right there and it really reinforces Shilo’s reputation as a full partner in southwest Manitoba,” he said.
Last year, then-Lt.-Gen. P.J. Devlin recommended that the minister initiate a three-year transitional process during which emergency services in the base’s surrounding area would be passed on to the province.
“I am painfully aware that this transfer could eventually lead to a significant increase in the response time, not only for nearby civilian residents, but also for neighbouring military families,” Devlin wrote.
Nevertheless, Devlin supported the rationale that “the Canadian Forces should not be providing such long-standing services outside of its mandate, and that these services are the responsibility of the Province of Manitoba.”
While there has been no formal long-term agreement announced, RM of Cornwallis Coun. Heather Dalgleish was both surprised and delighted to hear the news.
“I have lost sleep over this,” Dalgleish said. “This community is very near and dear to my heart. We have a number of seniors in our community and the last thing we wanted to see was this service be stopped and be faced with a tragedy as a result of longer response times.”
Dalgleish lives in Sprucewoods, just off base, and estimates the Shilo station ambulance could be at her door in five minutes compared to 35 minutes if an ambulance from Brandon has to be called.
“We have a very well-equipped, professional unit on base that can respond to us,” she said.
Both RMs pay a small fee per person to the Department of National Defence. They also provide a retainer and the federal government is refunded by individuals who use the service through ambulance fees.
Dalgleish hopes the federal government will put pen to paper on an agreement that serves both parties moving forward.
“I hope that this is a long-term solution and not just a short-term promise,” she said.
» Twitter: @CharlesTweed