Through Health Care Action Plan, AHS launches new EMS-811 Shared Response program; Opposition says UCP ignored `real solutions presented from frontline EMS workers to address ambulance crisis’

News Release

HCAP: Faster response times for 911 calls

Through the Health Care Action Plan (HCAP), Alberta Health Services has launched a new EMS-811 Shared Response program so every Albertan receives appropriate levels of care.

Alberta has the best front-line health-care workers in the world, and the government will work to have the right supports in place to ensure Albertans get the care they need when and where they need it.

Alberta paramedics are highly skilled and are trained to respond to every type of emergency. Their work is critical to ensuring that, in serious situations, Albertans have the highest level of care available.

To ensure Albertans in need of urgent care receive that care as quickly as possible, EMS emergency communications officers are now working closely with a dedicated team at 811 through a new EMS-811 Shared Response team. The Shared Response team will work to efficiently transfer non-urgent calls directly to an 811 nurse, while urgent calls will continue to receive an ambulance response.

“Empowering dispatchers to divert non-urgent calls to a dedicated team of experienced nurses within 811 when clinically appropriate is a win for Albertans. Everyone will have access to the appropriate level of care they need when they need it. The new approach makes our EMS system more responsive to the needs of Albertans.”

Jason Copping, Minister of Health

When Albertans calling 911 are connected with EMS, an emergency communications officer reassures the caller that help is on the way while triaging patients similar to what happens in a hospital emergency department. When an emergency communications officer is confident that a patient’s situation is best handled with alternate levels of care, they will transfer the call directly to a dedicated team of experienced registered nurses at 811 without entering the caller into a queue. The registered nurse will continue to assess the patient and situation to identify appropriate care options.

“This is an important step forward with our four priorities, specifically focused on reducing EMS and emergency department wait times, increasing the number of surgeries and reducing wait-lists, and improving flow through the health-care system. The goal of all these priorities is singular – improving health care for all Albertans.”

Dr. John Cowell, official administrator, Alberta Health Services

911 calls that are assessed as clinically appropriate for the new shared response system do not wait in the regular 811 queue and have a dedicated registered nurse for support. Callers are informed about this process and, if at any point it is determined an ambulance is required, an ambulance is dispatched.

Non-urgent calls account for about 10 to 20 per cent of total 911 call volume, depending on the area. That means that, with the EMS-811 Shared Response team in use, about 40,000 non-emergency responses could be avoided each year. This new approach means more ambulances will be available to respond where they are needed most while ensuring all Albertans maintain access to the appropriate levels of care they need.

“Collaboration between EMS and Health Link has helped us generate this innovative solution. We are creating capacity for EMS and also helping the patient with the care they need. This is one more example of how dedicated teams work together to achieve a common goal.”

Dr. Francois Belanger, vice-president and chief medical officer, Alberta Health Services

“I would like to thank the front-line workers in dispatch centres and paramedics for saving lives of Albertans every day. As promised, we are acting on the solutions and ideas EMS workers brought forward to better manage non-urgent calls and find ways to provide the appropriate level of care for Albertans. Transferring non-urgent calls will help ease the strain on EMS front-line workers and help focus their efforts on the most urgent calls, where their level of care is needed.”

RJ Sigurdson, parliamentary secretary for EMS reforms

Priority actions underway to lower EMS response times
The official AHS administrator has been tasked with four priority actions to improve emergency medical services coverage. That includes finding ways to use more appropriate modes of transportation when the use of ambulances and highly trained paramedics is not needed. AHS is issuing a request for expressions of interest and qualification to seek contracting non-emergency transfers between hospitals and care centres in the Calgary and Edmonton areas in early February.

AHS is also working on fast-tracking ambulance transfers at emergency departments. On Jan. 5, an AHS provincial policy was put in place at all hospitals, which provides direction and guidelines to streamline the transfer of stable and less urgent patients from the care of paramedics to emergency department and urgent care centre teams.

Quick facts
· EMS dispatch has been collaborating with the Poison and Drug Information Service (PADIS). Since early 2022, AHS has successfully moved more than 400 non-emergency calls with questions about poison and drugs over to PADIS.

· Health Link’s registered nurses use an industry best practice advice model that uses evidence-based guidelines and provides safe, patient-focused clinical options for non-emergency patients who have called 911.

· AHS encourages all Albertans who are seeking health advice for non-urgent health concerns to learn about their care options by visiting Physicians, pharmacists or Health Link are often the best supports.

News Release

David Shepherd, Alberta NDP Critic for Health, issued the following statement in response to EMS response times:

“It is so disappointing to witness the UCP, yet again, ignore real solutions presented from frontline EMS workers to address the ambulance crisis. The UCP keeps tinkering around the edges rather than hiring and retaining Alberta paramedics and frontline EMS workers.

“The requests from paramedics are clear—crews must get off-shift on time, all paramedics must be offered a permanent full-time contract, and harm-reduction services need to expand to cut down the huge number of drug poisoning calls.

“The fact that there were no paramedics at the government’s press conference today speaks volumes to me about their adversarial relationship with front-line health-care workers.

“Families around the province have been impacted by the thousands of EMS shifts that are going unfilled every month in Alberta. In fact, just yesterday we released data obtained through FOIP that shows in Calgary alone there are now hundreds of Red Alerts each and every month.

“An Alberta NDP government will work collaboratively with paramedics and other health-care professionals and end the crisis and chaos in Alberta health care.

“We will provide real resources and we will launch the largest health-care recruitment campaign Alberta has ever seen.”


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