CALGARY -- Saying he rejects any notion it is an unwarranted risk or step into the unknown, Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro says the province will consolidate EMS dispatch.  

CTV Calgary has obtained a letter from Shandro to the mayors of Calgary, Lethbridge, Red Deer and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo outlining the decision

“I have heard it suggested that this change is an unwarranted risk or a 'step into the unknown.' I absolutely reject any such suggestion,” the letter reads in part.

“Most other provinces in Canada also dispatch ambulances separately in a model that integrates EMS with health care, as do the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. This decision is not 'an unknown,' it’s the best practice and the standard practice in Alberta, in most other provinces, and in other countries whose health systems are most like ours.”

The letter adds the province has “paid four cities to dispatch ambulances for 11 years now.”

“Ten or 20 years ago, before CAD, there may have been real advantages to having dispatchers sit in a room together; there may have been good reasons for cities to fight to keep EMS dispatch. But there’s just no reason to keep doing it other than protecting the status quo,” it read.

“There’s no good reason to keep spending $9 million a year on these contracts. That’s $9 million that should be invested in improving service – not in redundant dispatch. It’s time to follow through – to integrate dispatch services as intended, leverage AHS’ expertise in EMS, and direct the savings back into improving ambulance services for patients.”

In a statement Friday afternoon, the four mayors blasted the move.

“We are strongly opposed to this Friday afternoon announcement by Minister Shandro, conveniently delivered just as the first major winter storm blows into Alberta," it read.

"His letter contains many inaccuracies and we will address these, together, early next week. “

The mayors had been lobbying hard against the change, with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi saying 911 dispatch should be operated at the municipal level because local knowledge and integration with fire services can't be overlooked if safety is the top priority.

Shandro had earlier said he would review their concerns.

A copy of the letter from Shandro can be read below.