By Gillian Slade on June 6, 2017.
A meeting in Edmonton about the air ambulance contract, attended by Medicine Hat and Peace River officials and Alberta Health Services, is being described as productive by at least two of the parties.
“These are tough meetings but I think it was fairly productive to tell you the truth,” said Medicine Hat Mayor Ted Clugston.
Medicine Hat was assured there would be no decrease in service and that there would be no consolidation of services, such as a base in Calgary to cover Medicine Hat, said Clugston, who participated in a conference call from Ottawa where he was at the time.
Utility commissioner Cal Lenz and development commissioner Stan Schwartzenberger were present in person.
“The meeting was productive, and included a discussion on the RFP process to date, including a discussion on next steps, which include debriefs with the unsuccessful bidders,” said Haydon Dewes, spokesperson for AHS, in an emailed statement.
There was an exchange in the legislature last Thursday between Wildrose MLA Grant Hunter and Health Minister Sarah Hoffman in which Hunter said there were rumours the air ambulance contract was being signed that day. Hoffman neither confirmed nor denied that.
“We were also assured that no contract has been signed,” said Clugston.
In June 2016, AHS contracted the services of Procurement Law Office in Toronto to handle the RFP, which was issued Aug. 9, 2016 and specified the need for appropriate facilities at each airport ambulance base. The contract was awarded to CanWest on March 21, 2017 for most of the bases in the province. CanWest does not have airport premises at Peace River and Medicine Hat. Clugston said there is no space available locally.
CAO Merete Heggelund told the News May 19 that CanWest was provided with “a possible layout for future lot development in accordance with the Airport Land Development project … They were told that this is just a schematic, no serviced land is available and it would take time (and money) to develop these lots to be ready for sale.”
Clugston says the airport authority in Medicine Hat is now “inserted as part of the process” and will be saying whether CanWest meets the requirements in the RFP or not.
“… I think AHS has come to the realization …, especially in Peace River and Medicine Hat that they don’t have the space and that’s pretty much factual and you can’t argue that, but they are still working with CanWest to see if perhaps they can meet the requirements for the RFP,” said Clugston.
Whether this means AHS may require current contractors to continue operating until CanWest can meet the requirements is not clear.
“No timelines were given,” said Clugston. “From what I understand Integra will be providing the service until at such time perhaps CanWest can meet the requirements.”
Meanwhile, AHS is talking about debriefs with “unsuccessful bidders” … “in parallel with ongoing contract discussions with the preferred providers selected from the RFP process,” said Dewes. “If contract negotiations are not successful, AHS may then look at other options such as working with other RFP bidders to finalize a contract. Unsuccessful bidders also have the right to appeal the RFP process.”
Clugston says the city has to be careful not to pick winners and losers.
“We can’t say we prefer one carrier over the other but we can answer honestly if they aren’t meeting the requirements,” said Clugston.
While AHS would not provide a timeline, Clugston believes there has got to be a point at which a decision is made to award the contract to the second bidder if CanWest can’t comply, or reissue the RFP.
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