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Healthcare Action Plan


Taking urgent action to provide Albertans with world-class healthcare where and when they need it most.


The Healthcare Action Plan identifies immediate government actions to build a better healthcare system that supports patients needing care while setting clear measurements for success.

Alberta's healthcare 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 healthcare system so Albertans can access world-class care, when and where they need it most.

What we're doing

To provide the decisive leadership required to accomplish this task, Dr. John Cowell has been appointed full-time Official Administrator of Alberta Health Services 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, Mauro Chies to address 4 immediate goals that will decrease ER wait times, improve EMS response times, reduce wait times for surgeries and empower frontline workers to deliver healthcare. The doctors will report back on the success of the Healthcare Action Plan in February 2023 (90 days).


Learn more about the urgent actions we are taking as part of the Healthcare Action Plan.

View the presentation

Goal 1: Decrease emergency room wait times


Actions to take

  • Attract and train additional doctors and nurses to reduce wait times in our emergency rooms.
  • Shorten the transfer time for patients who need care.

Indicators of success

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

Goal 2: Improve emergency medical services response times


Actions to take

  • Encourage paramedics to determine whether or not a patient needs to be transferred to ER by ambulance.
  • Ensure more appropriate modes of transportation are used for non-emergency transfers.
  • Fast-track ambulance transfers at the ER so paramedics are available for more calls.
  • Empower EMS dispatch to transfer non-emergency calls from 911 to Health Link.

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.
  • Progress to date

    • Adding 20 ambulances during peak hours in Calgary and Edmonton, expected to start this spring.
    • Fast-tracking ambulance transfers at emergency departments by moving less urgent patients to hospital waiting areas.
    • Freeing up paramedics and ambulances by: 
      • quickly connecting 911 callers without a serious or life-threatening emergency to a registered nurse at 811 Health Link for further assessment
      • contracting appropriately-trained resources for non-emergency transfers between facilities in Edmonton and Calgary
    • Transporting medically-stable patients by other methods will free up about 70 ambulances each day to respond to emergency calls.

Goal 3: Reduce wait times for surgeries


Actions to take

  • Increase surgeries at underutilized operating rooms, mainly in rural areas.
  • Continue to leverage publicly funded surgeries 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.
  • Progress to date

    • Adding 3,000 more joint, hip and knee replacement procedures at 2 surgical facilities in Calgary, a 21% increase over 2021-22.
    • Adding 3,000 orthopedic surgeries at an Edmonton surgical facility, a 17% increase over 2021-22.

Goal 4: Empower frontline workers to deliver healthcare


Actions to take

  • Restore decision-making to the local level and to local health professionals.
  • Incentivize regional innovation to provide more medical services.
  • Create a healthcare system that attracts more healthcare 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.