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Celebrated ambulance chief enjoying retirement

Sunday, 10 December 2017. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze

Celebrated ambulance chief enjoying retirement
Marg Cox is settling into retirement after 20 years with Pincher Creek Emergency Services.   Photo by Georgia Dale

Celebrated ambulance chief enjoying retirement

By Georgia Dale

Sitting down for a quiet cup of tea used to be a rare thing for Marg Cox, deputy ambulance chief with Pincher Creek Emergency Services.

But now that she’s had a couple of months to settle into her retirement, and smoke is clearing from the emergencies that disturbed the end of summer in the area, she might just begin to enjoy her newfound freedom.

Marg joined the Beaver Mines fire hall in 1997 as a firefighter and never looked back. In those days, the team was reluctant to hire anyone who lived more than five kilometres from the hamlet. How times have changed since then, she says.  

The provincewide amalgamation of ambulance services with Alberta Health Services resulted in significant changes, says Marg.

When she started as a firefighter 20 years ago, the emergency services available in the area were limited due to the lack of people with emergency medical training. That meant volunteer crews were able to provide first aid and transportation but were not able to give gravely ill or injured patients essential pain relief or intubation.

This was one of the major factors that prompted Marg to go for her EMT training 10 years ago, education that she had to fund herself. While things have changed a lot since then, she says that when she first started paramedicine was a male-dominated profession.

After she completed her training, the unit had to hold multiple fundraisers to stock its ambulances with the equipment they required.

Since the AHS expansion, individual municipalities have remained responsible for restocking and organizing their ambulances, under provincial supervision. But Marg says the degree of attachment that community organizations used to have with their equipment and services has dropped.

That sense of community has been eroded further by the AHS policy of dispatching the nearest available ambulance to the scene, she says.

This means that while Pincher Creek crews are on their way back from taking a patient to Calgary, they might get called to an incident in High River, extending the amount of time the Pincher Creek area doesn’t have access to that vehicle.

Thankfully, the volunteer association found a solution to this by supplying a volunteer-operated ambulance in addition to the AHS vehicles.

These recent changes and challenges to Pincher Creek Emergency Services will no longer be primary concerns for Marg, however, as she embarks on a new chapter. She intends to spend a lot more time with family, her animals and tending to her beautifully wild garden.

But before horseback riding or gardening season starts, she and her husband, Dave, will celebrate a rare Christmas when at least one of them is guaranteed to have the holiday off. They plan to cruise the Panama Canal in January.

For now, though, adjusting to the new sense of quiet has its own challenges.

Marg says, “I was the uniform,” and that uniform was how people of the community recognized her for the past 20 years. The job, she says, took up a lot of personal time and shaped a great deal of her and Dave’s social lives.

Many a night have Marg’s grandkids been woken up by the ambulance or fire dispatch radios sounding off in the middle of the night. Now they’ll only have to worry about Dave’s fire dispatch until he finds the time to retire, if he ever does.

There are others, too, who will particularly appreciate Marg’s newfound freedom. Dogs Pow and Gertie and horses Lilly, Leo and Bentley will surely appreciate more of her company.