AHS launches new telephone number for Health Link
Story by Tara Grindle
Getting trusted health advice around the clock just got simpler with the introduction of the new, 811 phone number for Health Link, Alberta’s free, 24/7 health information and advice line.
A simpler, easy-to-remember number is welcome news for Albertans such as Carrie Meanley, who is a strong advocate and frequent user of Health Link services.
The advice of a Health Link nurse may have saved the lives of Meanley and her unborn daughter, Anna.
“During my pregnancy, I was having abdominal pain but I didn’t want to have to go to the emergency if I didn’t have to,” says Meanley. “Being a first-time mom, I needed advice and the Health Link nurse was so comforting and helpful.”
After asking a series of questions, the nurse advised the 32-year-old Calgarian to visit the nearest emergency department. After testing at the hospital, she was diagnosed with HELLP syndrome, a potentially fatal condition.
“I had to have an emergency C-section and it’s possible that my daughter Anna or I would not be here today if it weren’t for the advice we got from Health Link,” says Meanley.
The new 811 Health Link number replaces the existing 10-digit local numbers in Calgary and Edmonton, as well as the provincewide toll-free number, although the old numbers will continue to direct callers to Health Link for the time being. In a medical emergency, Albertans should continue to dial 911 or visit the nearest emergency department.
“Health Link is an invaluable service that gives Albertans across the province telephone access to registered nurses and other health professionals,” says Sarah Hoffman, Minister of Health.
“With this change to Health Link’s number, access to experienced, responsive health advice will be even easier. This is the kind of universal, accessible, public health care delivery that Albertans expect and depend on.”
Health Link supported more than one million Albertans last year, often preventing unnecessary trips to the emergency department. Of those who called with a health concern, 48 per cent were given advice to care for themselves at home, 36 per cent were told to visit their doctor or another health care provider, and 16 per cent were advised to go to the emergency department.
Health Link staff also provide advice and navigation services via telephone free of charge as well as online health information to the public through MyHealth.Alberta.ca.
“We are very pleased to be able to offer 811 dialing for Health Link,” says Vickie Kaminski, Alberta Health Services President and CEO.
“We know this service has a huge impact on improving the health of Albertans. Health Link provides caring and trusted advice, connecting people to the right care, by the right provider, at the right time and place. It also helps reduce pressures on other parts of our health system, like our emergency departments.”
Several other provinces, including B.C. and Saskatchewan, also use 811 for access to non-urgent health care services.
Alberta’s adoption of 811 will create consistency for those travelling to and from neighbouring provinces.
For more information, visit www.myhealth.alberta.ca/811.