AHS Reform Plan


Taking urgent action to reform Alberta Health Services to address the immediate issues facing the health care system and improve patient care.


The AHS Reform Plan identifies immediate government actions to improve Alberta Health Services patient care and accountability while setting clear measurements for success.

Alberta's health system is not currently able to meet growing demand despite the excellent work of doctors, nurses and other staff. Urgent reforms will focus on strengthening the health care system so Albertans can access world-class care, when and where they need it.

What we're doing

To provide the decisive leadership required to accomplish this task, Dr. John Cowell has been appointed full-time Official Administrator to replace the existing part-time board of directors and will report to the Premier and Minister of Health.

Dr. Cowell will work with the interim AHS CEO, Dr. Mauro Chies to address 4 immediate goals that will lead to faster EMS service times, decreased emergency room wait times, and reduced surgical wait times for Albertans. The doctors will report back on the success of the AHS Reform Plan in February 2023 (90 days).


Learn more about the actions we are taking to reform Alberta Health Services.

View the presentation

Goal 1: Improve emergency medical services response times

Actions to take

  • Empower EMS dispatch to step-down calls from 911 to Health Link, based on patient need, thereby decreasing overall emergency calls.
  • Empower paramedics to triage whether or not a patient needs to be transferred to ER by ambulance.
  • Fast track ambulance transfers at the ER so paramedics are available for more calls.
  • Use more appropriate modes of transportation for non-emergency inter-facility transfers.

Indicators of success

  • Time from call to ambulance arrival.
  • Patient offload time at ER.
  • Number of less urgent calls handled by ambulance.
  • Number of calls "stepped-down" from 911 to Health Link.

Goal 2: Decrease emergency room wait times

Actions to take

  • Decrease emergency room wait times by bringing in additional health professionals to improve on-site patient care and management.
  • Transfer an increased number of patients from hospital beds into more appropriate care settings such as long-term and continuing care facilities.

Indicators of success

  • Time from entering the emergency room to receiving the appropriate level of care required for that patient.

Goal 3: Reduce wait times for surgeries

Actions to take

  • Significantly increase surgeries at underutilized hospitals, mainly in rural areas, and at chartered surgical facilities.

Indicators of success

  • Utilization rate of operating rooms at AHS hospitals.
  • Proportion of surgeries occurring within clinically acceptable wait times.
  • Surgery wait times.

Goal 4: Develop long-term reforms by consulting with front-line workers

Actions to take

  • Restore decision making to the local level and local health professionals.
  • Incentivize regional innovation to provide more medical services.
  • Attract substantially more health care professionals to Alberta.

Indicators of success

  • Health service wait times.
  • Health professional-to-population ratios.


  • Photo of John W. F. Cowell, M.D.

    Dr. John Cowell, Official Administrator, Alberta Health Services

    John W. F. Cowell, M.D., has extensive experience as an executive leader in the fields of health and safety. He has served as Official Administrator for Alberta Health Services, Chief Executive Officer for the Health Quality Council of Alberta, and President and CEO of the Workers’ Compensation Board of Alberta.

    Prior to these appointments he held the position of Corporate Vice President with NOVA Corporation of Alberta, where he was responsible for health, safety, and environment. Dr. Cowell also taught for over 30 years as a Clinical Professor at the University of Calgary’s Department of Community Health Services, and has published numerous papers on injury prevention.

    He focuses on ways of improving access to safety, suicide prevention, and mental health resources at the population level.