In late February, Alberta Health Services released a Healthcare Action Plan 90-day report. The report was meant to demonstrate the progress of the action plan which was launched in mid-November of 2022.

Dr. John Cowell, who was appointed by the province as the Official Administrator (OA) of Alberta Health Services (AHS) was to oversee and accelerate improvements in several key areas including reducing ambulance response times in the province.

The report stated that in comparing November 2022 with January 2023, EMS response times for the most urgent calls were shorter. Highlights from the report stated that EMS response times were down in the following areas:

  • 17 minutes in metro and urban areas, down from 21.8 minutes.
  • 19.2 minutes in communities with over 3,000 residents, down from 21.5 minutes.

With AHS reporting an overall decrease in ambulance response times province-wide, Airdrie's Fire Department has also seen a slight decrease in the average time they wait for an ambulance to arrive at an emergency call in which there is a co-medical response.

The co-medical response calls with fire departments and ambulances being dispatched together to a 9-1-1 event are standard procedures when it comes to Delta and Echo emergency calls (the highest priority and the most life-threatening). A 9-1-1 event that is codified as a Charlie event will be responded to by fire crews if EMS is expected to be longer than 10 minutes.

Thus far in 2023, the average wait time (minutes) that fire crews have waited for EMS has dipped slightly below the average, though it was a significant drop from 2022. 

Airdrie's Fire Department has seen a slight dip in how long fire crews are waiting on-scene for the arrival of EMS. (Graphics provided by Airdrie Fire Department)Airdrie's Fire Department has seen a marked increase in waiting for an ambulance on-scene since 2108. However, in 2023 there has been a slight decrease in the wait times for fire crews. (Graphic provided by Airdrie Fire Department) 

However, Airdrie's Fire Department stated that in order to determine the impact of announced changes to the EMS system, the department will be continuing to monitor wait times.

"...With the desire to see both a reduction of this time and a reduction of the number of Charlie calls which are initiated because EMS is simply not available in a timely manner," the city stated.

According to Airdrie Fire Department statistics, fire crews responded to a total of medical 876 events between July 1 2022 to February 28, 2023, averaging 3.61 medical events attended every day. While Delta and Echo events are by far the most numerous, there have also been a number of lower-priority events.

aAirdrie's Fire Department continues to see high call volumes, though the average on-scene wait time for EMS has dropped slightly in 2023. (Graphic provided by Airdrie Fire Department) 

Out of the 876 calls, fire crews were on the scene first for 424 of those calls. However, it should be noted that fire departments do not typically respond to Bravo or Charlie events unless there is a significant delay in an ambulance responding and they are requested by EMS to do so. 

aAirdrie's Fire Department continues to respond to co-medical calls outside of the Delta and Echo ranges as seen by the statistics provided by the Fire Department. (Graphics provided by Airdrie Fire Department)

While the 90-day report released by AHS did not have Airdrie specific numbers, public-facing statistics provided by AHS for Airdrie EMS response times are available, though have only been updated to include October 2022.

The 90th percentile benchmark (the time at which 90 per cent of response times are below) for Airdrie EMS in October 2022 was just above 15 minutes. Though it should be noted that this only account for Delta and Echo calls.

EMS response times in Airdrie provided by Alberta Health Services. (Graphic provided by AHS EMS)EMS response times in Airdrie are provided by Alberta Health Services. (Graphic provided by AHS EMS)

While the fire department did see a slight dip in on-scene wait times for EMS, Airdrie continues to experience issues with its ambulance fleet. This past week, AHS confirmed to Discover Airdrie that on the night of March 13, only one out of three Advanced Life Support ambulances was available in Airdrie. 

On March 3, 2023, the Canmore Fire Department confirmed that they had transported a patient to the hospital at the request of Medical Direction due to a delayed ambulance response.

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