This afternoon (February 2, 2023), the Government of Alberta provided an update on speeding up Emergency Medical Services (EMS) response time.  

Today the Provincial Government will be launching the EMS 811 shared response program. The program allows EMS dispatch the ability to transfer calls not requiring an ambulance response to Alberta’s Health Link at 811.  

“Call volumes are up 30 per cent in the past 18 months. The significant increase in calls has also meant challenges in finding available ambulances to send to emergencies quickly which increases pressures on paramedics across our entire province,” said Health Minister for the Province of Alberta, Jason Copping. 

The process of handing down emergency calls to Alberta’s Health Link number began in mid-January.  

“Providing dispatchers with the ability to assess a call and divert non-urgent issues to a dedicated team of experienced nurses at Health Link is a win for Albertans. This change frees up paramedics to focus on life threatening and urgent calls,” explained Copping.  

Copping says the added benefit of the call transfer is that those who are looking for non-urgent support will also receive the help they need.  

“Transferring calls to 811 will also help those who need support with non-urgent conditions but don’t know what to do or where to turn callers. Callers to are transferred to health link will speak with a registered nurse who will do a further assessment of the caller’s situation. The nurse can then provide health advise and referrals as needed,” said Copping.  

Copping says there is an estimated 40,000 emergency calls a year where an ambulance is not required. Non-urgent calls are believed to make up 10-20 per cent of total 911 call volume depending on the area. The callers will also be informed about the process of the call transfer to Health Link.