Alberta air and ground ambulances provide services to over 3.5 million Albertans. The volume of calls across the province is about 300,000 per year, which includes both emergency calls and transfers of patients between health care facilities.
Ground ambulance services
Air ambulance services
Alberta Health Services (AHS) provides dedicated air ambulance services through contracted providers of fixed wing air ambulances located at 10 bases throughout the province. AHS also has agreements in place with STARS to provide rotary air ambulance services from bases in Calgary, Edmonton and Grande Prairie.
Who pays for ambulance services?
The Canada Health Act does not require the Government of Alberta to provide emergency medical services (EMS) / ambulance services as an insured service. However, Alberta Health and Wellness does provide some coverage for emergency ground ambulance services for seniors and those who receive Non-Group coverage. Over 80 per cent of ambulance costs are paid by the Government of Alberta, while less than 20 per cent is paid directly by individual Albertans or their secondary health insurance.
- Health Canada pays the user fee for EMS on behalf of First Nations people.
- All other Albertans must pay a portion of pre-hospital/emergency ground ambulance costs themselves, or purchase secondary health insurance to assist with the cost. This also applies to Alberta residents who travel in other provinces or countries.
AHS pays for medically necessary ground ambulance inter-facility transfers between approved health care facilities. AHS also pays for pre-hospital/emergency air ambulance services and inter-facility transfer services by air ambulance for all Albertans when these services are medically necessary.
Who sets the ambulance service standards and practices?
The Minister of Health and Wellness sets and enforces standards and required practices for EMS/ambulance services in the province through a number of Acts and regulations that support them. The Emergency Health Services Act is the central piece of legislation that influences ambulance services.
Emergency Health Services at Alberta Health and Wellness provides leadership, monitoring and inspection services for emergency health services throughout the province.
EMS Medical Control Protocols
Protocols are clearly defined clinical treatment pathways that EMS paramedical staff will follow when providing care. MCPs are NOT guidelines. They are protocols and must be followed.
The protocols were developed by a provincial committee comprised of Alberta Health and Wellness, and AHS physicians and EMS staff. All protocols are evidence-based and have been reviewed by experts including emergency physicians and pediatricians.