Alberta has the best front-line health care workers in the world, and Alberta’s government is putting the right supports in place for Albertans to get the care they need when and where they need it. Since rolling out the Health Care Action Plan (HCAP) in November, there have been improvements in all four priority areas.

“Alberta’s front-line health care workers do amazing work and we need to help them be able to do that work. We also need to make sure Albertans have access to the health care they need, when and where they need it. That’s why we embarked on some really ambitious plans to make meaningful changes to our health care system. And it’s working. I’m thrilled to see response times and wait times are already trending in the right direction.”

Danielle Smith, Premier

Emergency medical services (EMS) response times have been significantly reduced and more Albertans are getting their surgeries within clinically recommended times. Patients are getting care faster at emergency departments and Alberta is strengthening its workforce with more front-line health care workers.

“We are seeing improvement across all priority areas. This is having an immediate impact on Albertans across the province who need and deserve timely access to care. We are going to keep pushing forward with positive change.”

Jason Copping, Minister of Health

Alberta Health Services (AHS) has launched a website that outlines the progress made so far. The website displays multiple metrics used to measure the progress of the HCAP, such as EMS wait times, the number of people waiting too long for surgeries, emergency department waits and more.

“Every day, we are seeing tangible, measurable results that demonstrate improvement. The data is there, and more importantly, we are seeing individual Albertans receive the care they need when and where they need it. Our EMS paramedics are arriving quicker, our ambulances are staying in their home communities more, and families are seeing their loved ones receive cardiac, pediatric and cancer surgeries faster. This is clear progress and improvement as we build a better health care system for all.”

Dr. John Cowell, official administrator, Alberta Health Services

“Across Alberta, teams of health care workers are working to provide compassionate, quality care, reduce wait times and improve the lives of Albertans. I would like to thank every health care worker and AHS team member for the extraordinary efforts to improve the health care system. We are seeing positive results, and I am grateful for the collective effort to serve Albertans.”

Mauro Chies, CEO and president, Alberta Health Services

Lowering EMS response time

Emergency response times have improved, and more ambulances are staying in their home communities.

This is a direct result of initiatives implemented throughout the province to improve EMS service. These include installing the 45-minute Canadian standard target for emergency department patient handover, using alternative methods for inter-facility transfers when an ambulance is not needed, and handing over non-urgent calls from 911 to 811/Health Link where clinically appropriate.

Since implementation, response times have improved throughout the province, including:

  • a 38 per cent improvement in Calgary
  • a 25 per cent improvement in Edmonton
  • an average 33 per cent improvement in smaller communities

The frequency of red alerts is also coming down. So far in April, Edmonton has spent about 10 minutes in red alert compared with 295 minutes in November 2022. Calgary has spent about four minutes in red alert in April compared with 254 minutes last November.

Improving surgery wait time

With the changes implemented through the HCAP, fewer Albertans are waiting longer than clinically recommended for surgeries. Currently, there are 11,190 fewer patients waiting longer than clinically recommended compared with this time last year – an improvement of more than 25 per cent. AHS performed more than 292,000 surgeries in the 2022-23 fiscal year, resulting in fewer patients on the wait list and shorter wait times to get their surgeries completed.

Wait times for cancer patients are also improving. In the 2022-23 fiscal year, AHS completed about 22,100 cancer surgeries compared with about 20,040 pre-pandemic – a 10 per cent increase.

Reducing emergency wait times and improving patient flow

Emergency department wait times are coming down and more Albertans are being transferred to the appropriate care settings faster.

AHS placed more hospital patients into a continuing care living option within 30 days of no longer requiring hospital care in March compared with April 2022. AHS has opened about 1,250 new continuing care spaces in the last fiscal year and another 250 are expected to open before the end of June. The Bridge Healing Transitional Accommodation Program also provides care for people experiencing homelessness and helps improve patient flow while offering treatment and recovery supports.

These efforts, in turn, free up emergency department spaces as well as hospital beds and, most importantly, provide care in appropriate settings for complex clients.

Empowering health care workers to deliver health care

Alberta continues to hire more doctors, nurses, paramedics, nurse practitioners and other allied health professionals across the province. Approximately 1,100 more nursing staff have been hired by AHS since Jan. 1, 2022, including 85 per cent of all registered nurses who graduated in Alberta in 2022-2023. AHS also hired 457 new EMS staff members in 2022, including 341 paramedics.

As part of the phased rollout of the 45-minute patient handover target initiative, AHS has been hiring additional emergency department teams to improve patient flow. AHS is striving to become the employer of choice for health care professionals both locally and globally.

Quick facts

  • About 292,500 surgeries were completed in 2022-23. That’s more than 5,600 Albertans accessing surgery every week.
  • EMS response times are improving despite a sustained 30 per cent increase in call volume across the province. Since November 2022, EMS response times for the most urgent calls are faster.
  • In the Central Zone, a new inter-facility transfer program is putting 10 new ambulances on the road to support the transfer of stable patients with non-urgent conditions between facilities. On April 18, the first of these ambulances was put into service with the remaining nine to be added by July.