The Alberta Government has introduced a new program to free up more ambulances and paramedics to respond to emergency calls. The program involves arranging alternative transportation for patients who do not require medical support during transfer.  

“Starting today Alberta Health Services will use alternate modes of transportation for non-emergency transfers of patients instead of using ambulances where it is clinically appropriate to do so. This will free of ambulances and paramedics to respond to more emergency calls to provide urgent care faster,” explained Alberta Premier, Danielle Smith.  

Smith believes the province’s resources are wasted shuttling patients around the province when paramedics and ambulances could be providing more responses daily.  

“This program has already been successfully piloted in a number of municipalities Calgary, Bonnyville, Valleyview, Athabasca, and St. Paul for six months. The result of the pilot is already clear. The program diverts 15 per cent of ambulance transports which will allow for an additional 70 responses a day provincewide,” added Smith.  

“We’re seeing a sustained increase of up to 30 percent in 9-1-1 calls and the system had limited slack in it before. On top of that, emergency departments are seeing high volumes of very sick patients so paramedics are waiting longer in emergency. There is no EMS system that can deal with this situation without real strain,” said Health Minister, Jason Copping.  

The program will be implemented across the province and health care staff and physicians will be using provincial guidelines to determine if alternative patient transfer is an option.  

Copping says AHS is making progress in reducing the amount of trips to Edmonton and Calgary from surrounding communities. Some communities have also seen some improvements in response times.   

“In Edmonton itself the latest median response time is right around the eight-minute target or just a bit above. In Red Deer, it’s right on the eight-minute target and it’s below the target in Fort Mcmurray, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, and Medicine Hat. We’re still struggling in Calgary. Especially because of the challenges that were facing in emergency. That’s a system problem not just an EMS problem. We need more capacity to get patients out of emergency faster and free up the staff for the next patient coming in with EMS,” explained Copping.  

The new program is one of several actions underway at AHS designed to improve response times, wait times, and manage patient flow and capacity.