February 23, 2024


Define Beauty Yourself

Healthcare Action Plan | Alberta Health Services

90-Day Report from Dr. John Cowell, Official Administrator

The Government of Alberta launched the Healthcare Action Plan on Nov. 17, 2022, to ensure rapid improvements in key areas of healthcare delivery. Dr. John Cowell was appointed by the Government of Alberta as Official Administrator (OA) of Alberta Health Services (AHS) to oversee and accelerate these improvements.

AHS is aligned with the government’s Healthcare Action Plan, and working to aggressively deliver on all priorities.

Working closely with AHS’ valued partners, the OA has been focused on ensuring access to high-quality, safe healthcare for all Albertans in the following strategic areas:

  • Improving EMS Response Times
  • Decreasing Emergency Department Wait Times
  • Improving Patient Flow Throughout the Healthcare Continuum
  • Reducing Wait Times for Surgeries

AHS is also working diligently to attract and retain healthcare professionals, and support local decision-making and innovation through improved decision-making culture and streamlined processes.

The healthcare system is a provincial asset. It is well-resourced and requires constant attention and continual improvement to ensure it serves all Albertans.

Additional Information: Backgrounder – February 27, 2023

Through the focused efforts of many healthcare teams, physicians, partners and stakeholders, tangible improvements have been made to healthcare delivery over this 90-day period. This section lists each priority’s successes and ongoing actions.

The healthcare system is complex. One achievement frequently impacts two or more priority areas. For instance, good patient flow through an emergency department will get ambulances back on the road sooner, and better accessibility of acute care and continuing care reduces emergency department waits.

EMS response times are impacted by several factors, such as volume and density of calls at any given time, as well as a community’s size, population and geography. EMS aims to ensure prompt response to all calls triaged as most emergent and life-threatening. When time is of the essence from a clinical perspective, the goal is to safely arrive in as little time as possible. Minutes really matter when responding to calls seeking help for life-threatening situations. EMS operations are sophisticated and data-driven – paramedics arrive on scene and transport patients while relying on the work of emergency communications officers and dispatch, 24 hours of every day. Insights and results from several recent reports are guiding work on reforms and innovations in EMS.



  • EMS response times are improving, despite a sustained 30 per cent increase in call volume across the province. Comparing November 2022 with January 2023, EMS response times for the most urgent calls are shorter:

    • 17 minutes in metro and urban areas, down from 21.8 minutes.
    • 19.2 minutes in communities with over 3,000 residents, down from 21.5 minutes.
    • 34.9 minutes in rural communities with under 3,000 residents, down from 36 minutes.
    • 57.5 minutes in remote communities, down from 63.9 minutes.

(AHS is focusing its measures on the 90th percentile, meaning these are the response times for 90 per cent of activity.)


  • Between November 2022 and January 2023, EMS added 39 front-line staff, including paramedics, emergency communications officers, and front-line supervisors. Overall, EMS hired 457 new staff members in 2022, including 341 paramedics.
  • Between November 2022 and January 2023, a new ambulance was added in Red Deer; 19 new ambulances were added earlier in 2022 provincewide.
  • In the coming days, AHS EMS will transition 70 current temporary full-time (TFT) positions to regular permanent full-time (RFT). AHS EMS will work with the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) to ensure this is a swift and smooth transition, including collaborating with the union on potential processes that could expedite the connection of interested temporary and casual employees to these positions. These 70 positions will continue to be allocated to all five operating zones, with 20 positions in each metro area, and 10 positions in each of the three rural zones. EMS will also engage with the HSAA to discuss efficient mechanisms to fill 80 new RFT positions that are being added to ranks in April 2023. Work is ongoing with HSAA to explore the utilization of the Rural Capacity Investment Fund to support paramedic recruitment, relocation, and retention initiatives in rural and remote communities. International recruitment options are also being actively explored.
  • A red alert or Code Red is a term used to indicate that, at a certain point in time, all ambulances within a certain geographical area are busy helping patients. A red alert does not mean that patients who urgently require an ambulance are not cared for; when additional resources are required, units are repositioned from other communities, non-urgent transfers are deferred, supervisors are deployed to assist in freeing up teams from EDs, and single paramedic response units are used to provide urgent care. Red alerts are normally very short in duration and are only used in Calgary and Edmonton. In January 2022, in the Edmonton Zone, there were 1,092 red alerts for a total of 39.7 hours, compared to 81 alerts for a total of 1.8 hours in January 2023. In Calgary Zone, in January 2022, there were 328 red alerts for a total of 8.1 hours compared to 134 red alerts for a total of 3.2 hours in January 2023.
  • AHS launched EMS/811 Shared Response in January 2023. Low-acuity EMS callers are being transferred to Health Link 811 where registered nurses – backed up by doctors when needed – provide callers with further assessment to determine what type of care and support is needed. In the first three weeks of Shared Response, EMS assessed more than 1,600 callers as low acuity and connected them to 811. In other jurisdictions with similar processes, up to 20 per cent of EMS calls are transferred to nursing lines over time. The program will help Albertans receive the care they need, and keep ambulances and paramedics able to respond to emergency calls. To date, approximately 30 ambulances per day are being freed up for emergencies.

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