New initiative supports EMS, hospital capacity in Calgary

April 28, 2022

CALGARY – A new initiative is being implemented in Calgary next month as part of ongoing work by Alberta Health Services (AHS) to relieve system pressure, build capacity and continue to meet healthcare demand in Alberta.

Supporting the AHS EMS 10-Point Plan, the new Calgary Integrated Operations Centre (IOC)  team will work with Emergency Medical Services (EMS) crews on the ground, helping direct them to the most appropriate care facility for each specific patient, based on patient need and site capacity.

“We know Albertans are concerned with rising EMS pressures, and I’m confident that the new IOC in Calgary will be another tool to help address them by better managing patient flow and helping reduce delays,” says Minister of Health Jason Copping. “Albertans need to know that an ambulance will be available for them when they call 911. I look forward to seeing better access to emergency services thanks to the IOC, the rest of AHS’s 10-point plan, and the broad ongoing engagement led by our provincial EMS advisory committee.”

Curtis Swanson, Director of EMS Operations in AHS Calgary Zone, says demand for healthcare and EMS services have increased in the zone over the past several years.

“Despite an almost 30 per cent increase in demand, EMS continues to respond to calls as expeditiously as possible,” says Swanson. “This team will help us continue that trend.”

Comprised of specially trained paramedics and acute care inpatient capacity leads, IOC is an additional support for the existing experts who navigate patient flow challenges through the healthcare system. The IOC will help co-ordinate and support patients going into hospital, their stay in hospital and discharge to the community.

“Through collaboration and increased communication between acute and urgent care sites, as well as EMS, STARS, Addiction and Mental Health and other programs, the IOC will help provide a balanced, even distribution of patients to help expedite care, decrease patient wait times and EMS offload delays, and increase patient satisfaction,” says Nick Thain, Senior Operating Officer for Alberta Health Services.

This will occur through the IOC’s coordinated, technology-enabled ‘air-traffic control’ perspective based on information provided by the paramedic crew on scene, as well as real-time data from the sites, including both emergency and acute care capacity.

The Calgary IOC has been modelled on the Edmonton IOC, which was launched in 2019. The Calgary IOC will not impact dispatch or 911 call processes currently in place.

The EMS 10-Point Plan was developed jointly by AHS and Alberta Health, and is designed to help AHS manage high volumes of EMS calls, freeing ambulances for urgent care needs, and ensure Alberta’s EMS workforce is robust and well-supported.

Since January, EMS has hired a total of 66 staff: nine temporary full-time and 57 casual staff.  EMS has also engaged with contract service partners on an hours of work/fatigue management project which is focused on mitigating fatigue and the associated risk to staff.

An additional $12.2 million has been approved to support implementation of supports for the next phase of this project.

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.