The Alberta Government hopes to lower EMS response times and free up paramedics through the Alberta Health Care Action Plan, and they're taking action by adding 20 additional ambulances during peak hours in Calgary and Edmonton — 10 for each city. Expected to arrive in Spring, this is one of several changes that could lead to better response times and more hospital and doctor availability.

Minister of Health Jason Copping explained this is one of many changes the government hopes to make to improve the various issues surrounding healthcare. While adding ambulances could be the biggest impact move the government is making, other policy changes could result in shorter wait times. This includes but is not limited to:

· Fast-tracking ambulance transfers at emergency departments by moving less urgent patients to hospital waiting areas, based on new provincial guidelines that are now in place

· Freeing up paramedics by contracting appropriately trained resources for non-emergency transfers between facilities in Edmonton and Calgary

· Empowering paramedics to assess a patient’s condition on scene and decide whether they need to be taken to an ER by ambulance.

Of those, the change to transfer patients without an ambulance is another huge change that has been met with concern by some community members and the opposition NDP.

While the UCP government believes this is an effective way to have more ambulances available for emergencies, the NDP is concerned taking ambulances away from patients could result in potential scenarios where a patient who unexpectedly needs ambulance care is unable to get it. However, Alberta Health Services and the UCP will move forward with this plan, as they cited an independent review by PricewaterhouseCoopers and discussion with frontline EMS workers as groups that supported this change.

“Our Health Care Action Plan goals come directly from our frontline workers and EMS partners who engaged with the Alberta EMS advisory committee, and I am pleased we have already begun putting recommendations in place to improve response times and ease the pressure on EMS staff," said RJ Sigurdson, parliamentary secretary for EMS reforms and co-chair of the Alberta Emergency Medical Services Provincial Advisory Committee.

As for how these transfers would move forward, a government press release explained any patient who needs an ambulance would get one, but those who are in stable condition would take another appropriate form of transportation, thus freeing up more ambulances.

"This change frees ambulances and AHS paramedics from approximately 44,000 non-emergency transfers per year and will improve response times for urgent calls," the press release read.

The press release added this other form of transportation would come via contracted providers.

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