Emergency – Call 911
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Find out more about ongoing actions to improve emergency medical services response times.
Ground ambulance services
Alberta Health Services (AHS) is responsible for the provision of emergency medical services (EMS) which includes ground and air ambulance services operations in Alberta.
- AHS EMS and 31 contracted EMS operators supply ground ambulance services throughout Alberta.
- EMS is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year across Alberta.
- Over 670,000 events occur each year, involving more than 780 ambulance vehicles with 5,600 EMS practitioners providing care.
In emergency situations, EMS practitioners respond to the patient's side to assess and treat injuries or sickness and when further treatment is needed, transport people to the most appropriate health care facility.
Air ambulance services
Air ambulance includes both fixed-wing airplanes and helicopters.
Air ambulance services are arranged through AHS EMS Central Communications Centre in Edmonton.
AHS contracts 11 fixed-wing aircraft to provide 24-hour air ambulance services throughout the province.
Air ambulance is closely integrated with ground ambulance since both are part of the health system, with consistent medical direction and an integrated dispatch system.
The fixed-wing air ambulance program has bases in:
- Fort McMurray
- Fort Vermilion
- Grande Prairie
- High Level
- Lac La Biche
- Medicine Hat
- Peace River
- Slave Lake
Helicopter ambulance service
Helicopter-based air ambulance services and transport are provided by 3 contracted providers:
- Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service (STARS) from bases in Calgary, Edmonton and Grande Prairie
- Helicopter Air Lift Operation (HALO) for southeastern Alberta from Medicine Hat
- Helicopter Emergency Response Organization (HERO) for northeastern Alberta from Fort McMurray
A number of charter helicopter operators provide rescue services to support patient access in remote areas of the province.
Ambulance fees and payment
The Alberta government provides funding for EMS. Only a small portion of the actual cost of the emergency health services (EHS) provided is charged to the patient, if they receive a bill at all.
- The Canada Health Act does not require EMS to be funded as an insured service.
- If you have any questions regarding an ambulance bill you have received, contact the AHS finance department:
If patient coverage information is not provided at the time EMS service is provided, the patient will receive a bill. If the patient has coverage through a government program (either Federal or Provincial) or insurance they will need to work with their coverage provider on bill payment process.
For more information, contact the AHS finance department.
All Albertans, regardless of where they live in the province, pay the same rate for ground ambulance service (PDF, 119 KB) in Alberta.
The provincial rate has 2 fees:
- $250 if a patient is not transported, or
- $385 if a patient is transported
An additional $200 is charged to a patient who is a non-resident of Alberta, whether the patient is transported or not.
Ambulance fee exemptions
Payment for ambulance services is the responsibility of the patient unless they are covered by a government program or private insurance.
Seniors, age 65 and over, enrolled in the Coverage for Seniors program do not receive a bill for ambulance services. The Alberta government pays the complete cost of ambulance services.
Health Canada pays the user fee for EMS for First Nations people.
Albertans receiving health benefits through Income Support, Adult Health Benefits or Alberta Child Health Benefits are also exempt.
Non-group supplementary insurance
Albertans can avoid emergency ambulance charges by purchasing supplementary medical insurance, such as the Alberta Blue Cross Non-Group Coverage Plan or other supplementary plans offered by insurance providers.
Albertans transported by ground and air-ambulance from one approved health facility to another do not receive bills for the costs involved.
Ambulance services outside Alberta and Canada
All Albertans, including seniors, must pay the cost of EMS and interfacility transfers when travelling outside Alberta. These services are not covered by interprovincial health care agreements.
Air ambulance services are not insured services under the Canada Health Act, and in most provinces, are not covered by interprovincial agreements.
An Alberta ambulance will not travel out of the province to bring an injured or sick Albertan back to Alberta.
Whenever you travel outside of the province, it is recommended you have supplementary health insurance or travel medical insurance to assist with the cost of ground or air ambulance services, or other medical services you may need.
If you travel outside Canada, you will need to have a supplementary medical insurance plan that covers the cost of ground or air ambulance transport back to Alberta.
Alberta EMS practitioners respond to medical emergencies, provide community care and transfer patients between health care facilities. All EMS practitioners are registered with the Alberta College of Paramedics, which governs the profession of paramedicine practice in the province.
Under the Health Professions Act Paramedics Profession Regulation, there are 3 designations of practitioners able to practise in Alberta:
- Emergency Medical Responder (EMR)
- Primary Care Paramedic (PCP)
- Advanced Care Paramedic (ACP)
All EMS practitioners are guided by medical control protocols when providing care within the public health system.
Ambulance standards and practices
The Alberta government sets and enforces standards and required practices for ambulance services. The governing legislation for ambulance services includes
Ensuring public safety
The Ministry of Health inspects ambulances, medical supplies and equipment, and reviews operational policies and confirms they are being followed by EMS practitioners and operators.
The Minister of Health designates a department staff member as Provincial Director, who works with AHS medical directors to develop and maintain the provincial medical protocols and ensure that medical advice is always available to EMS practitioners.
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