Additional ambulances dedicated to non-urgent patient transfers hit the road in central Alberta this week, as a way of easing EMS pressures and improving response times.  

The Central Zone Inter-Facility Transfer program will ultimately see 10 ambulances phased into service, with the first in place April 18 and the final unit expected to be operational in July.  

“This new service has been identified as a key priority to respond to the increasing volume of 911 calls and patient transfers that we’re experiencing,” says Scott Holsworth, Director of EMS Operations in the Central Zone of Alberta Health Services (AHS). “By adding resources dedicated to scheduled and predictable inpatient transfers, we can free up other ambulances to respond to emergencies in the communities where they’re needed.” 

The additional ambulances will perform non-urgent, low-priority patient transfers, taking the pressure off local EMS crews. This will result in helping keep EMS resources in local communities. The new resources will also create capacity at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre by improving patient flow and ensuring patients receive the appropriate care in the appropriate space.  

“This will benefit the many patients who require transport to and from the care of our specialized teams at the hospital,” says Janice Stewart, Chief Zone Officer for AHS Central Zone. “These resources also allow patients to return to their home communities sooner to heal closer to friends and family, while creating space for patients in need of higher-level care.”  

Ambulances will be operational seven days a week on a staggered schedule to correspond to data-supported peak demand times.  

Service partners Medavie Health Services West and Associated Ambulance will provide the service, with ambulances stationed in Red Deer and serving all Central Zone.  

Funding for the Inter-Facility Transfer program comes from the Government of Alberta’s Budget 2023, which committed $196 million in new EMS operating funding across the province over three years.