In an email memorandum sent to Calgary Zone paramedics last Thursday, Alberta Health Services stated that they were, 'urgently seeking staff for immediate and upcoming deployments for stations in the North zone.'

The Calgary zone encompasses over 1.7 million residents, with Airdrie, Cochrane, Didsbury, and Banff among several of the municipalities included. According to the contents of the email, the initiative is meant to, 'help address shortages in the North Zone.'

In a written response to DiscoverAirdrie, an Alberta Health Services (AHS) spokesperson said that as of January 3, only one Calgary Zone staff member has been utilized for the assignment.

"As they volunteered for this opportunity on their regularly scheduled days off there has been no impact on Calgary Zone Operations," AHS added.

The North zone is geographically the largest in Alberta. It is also a zone that has experienced a lack of physician coverage in its emergency departments. According to AHS, some of the lack of staffing is impacting emergency departments this month as well.

ahsAHS services are divided into five zones within the province. The Calgary zone encompasses over 1.7 million residents, with Airdrie, Cochrane, Didsbury, and Banff among several of the municipalities included. (Graphic Credit to Alberta Health Services (AHS))

When queried about staffing and resources within Calgary, AHS said that staffing varies based on the day of week and time of day for Calgary. 

"EMS does face some staffing challenges, however, EMS staffing is a problem across the country, not just in Alberta, as it is across the health workforce. Patients in the Calgary zone who need EMS care will continue to receive it. AHS EMS is continuing to work to fill vacant shifts in the Calgary zone."

Although AHS did not enumerate to DiscoverAirdrie the number of vacancies within the Calgary Zone or the North Zone, there are reports that there were 53 vacant paramedic shifts in the Calgary Zone on New Year's Eve.

The vacancies have also been reported in the first week of January, with 31 vacant shifts yesterday, 20 vacant shifts today and a potential 20 vacant shifts this Friday. 

However, according to an AHS spokesperson, there has been a 15.6 per cent increase in paramedics employed by AHS between December 2019 and October 30, 2023.

While AHS maintains that there has been an increase in paramedics being employed by the organization, statistics from previous Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy requests show that the vacancy rate, including casual positions for both advanced care and primary care paramedics between April 2022 and February 2023 hovered between 13.91 per cent (July 2022) to 16 per cent (February 2023).

Historical statistics provided via Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy requests show that between January 1 to October 27, 2023, there were 7,228 ambulance shutdowns in the Calgary zone. The timeframe is approximately 298 days, which accounts for an estimated 24.2 resources shut down per day.

Local statistics show that Airdrie has also been an increase in ambulances being shut down in the city in the past several years. 

  • 2019: 26 Airdrie ambulances shut down for 256 cumulative unstaffed hours
  • 2020: 56 Airdrie ambulances shut down for 648.5 cumulative unstaffed hours
  • 2021: 124 Airdrie ambulances shut down for 1432 cumulative unstaffed hours
  • January - June 2022: 129 Airdrie ambulances shut down for 1,456 cumulative unstaffed hours, but this number only accounts for Jan through June.
  • 2023 (not including October through December 2023): 184 Airdrie ambulances shut down for 2,094.58 cumulative unstaffed hours

The province's response to the ongoing issues facing AHS EMS is part of what the province said is a plan to, 'refocus Alberta’s health care system'. In late November 2023, it was announced that they were introducing initiatives aimed at ensuring EMS operates as efficiently and effectively as possible. 

"Paramedics and EMS partners on the ground have a direct line of sight and understand the unique needs of their communities. This is why the province is inviting them to join a new committee to share their input. The standing committee will have a three-year term and will report to the Ministry of Health."

Recently, Airdrie Fire Chief Mike Pirie revealed that he will be on the Alberta EMS standing committee, representing The Alberta Fire Chiefs Association, which appointed him. Official confirmation from the province is expected later this month. 

The standing committee will inform the ministry's ongoing evaluation of the EMS system and provide recommendations for improvement across the workforce, system performance and standards. 

Send your news tips, story ideas, pictures, and videos to You can also message and follow us on Twitter: @AIR1061FM

For Airdrie and area breaking news, weather, traffic and contest alerts download the DiscoverAirdrie app. Click here to get it from the Google Play or Apple App store.