AHS accepts recommendations from HQCA report into fatal dog attack response

January 19, 2023

CALGARY – Alberta Health Services (AHS) and the Health Quality Council of Alberta (HQCA) have released the report on the emergency response to a fatal dog attack in Calgary.

The independent HQCA report was commissioned by AHS, and identifies a number of factors that impacted the response to this incident.

Specific to EMS, AHS is acting immediately on the seven recommendations that directly involve AHS, and is working with the City of Calgary and Calgary Police, on the five recommendations that affect multiple parties. There are four other recommendations specific to the City and Calgary Police.

“This was a tragic incident, and our thoughts remain with Betty Ann Williams’ friends and loved ones, as well as her neighbours who did all they could to help her on that day,” said AHS Interim CEO Mauro Chies.

“We have taken this incident extremely seriously, and that is why we asked the HQCA to review every aspect of the emergency services response. We acknowledge the significant challenges our EMS workers are facing, and we continue to accelerate our efforts to improve the system.”

The HQCA report highlighted several challenges that contributed to the response on June 5, including:

  • No available ambulances in the Calgary Zone for calls deemed to be lower priority.
  • A high number of high-priority EMS dispatch events at the time of the incident, and paramedic crews busy with patients in Calgary emergency departments.
  • Issues with the assessment and level of priority that was initially assigned to the incident by EMS dispatch.
  • A shortage of staff in the EMS Southern Communications Centre on the day of the incident. 
  • Communication issues between EMS and City of Calgary emergency dispatch systems.  Note that the consolidation of dispatch was not found to have contributed to the outcome of this incident nor to response times

“We are grateful to the HQCA for reviewing the response into this tragic event, and we thank everyone who participated in the review process, including members of our EMS team and our partner organizations,” said Chies.

“By moving quickly to implement these recommendations, we hope to strengthen our EMS system, improve relationships with emergency services partners, and provide faster, more effective emergency care to Albertans.”

Charlene McBrien-Morrison, CEO of the Health Quality Council of Alberta, said there was no single action or activity that slowed the ambulance response time.

“It was a series of factors, some contributing to the delay more than others, but all important to understanding what happened that day and what can improve,” said McBrien-Morrison. “People set out to do the right thing and yet there were times when the system was not operating at its best. This event reminds us how circumstances can come together on a given day to undermine system performance.”

AHS EMS is already acting on several of the recommendations, including:

  • Working with Calgary Police Service and Calgary Fire Department to develop a Memorandum of Understanding for co-evaluation of 911 calls.
  • Working on implementing a real-time tool to support the sharing of expected service time to people who call 911.
  • Working on an additional process for triaging of low-acuity patients alternate clinical supports.

Other recommendations that are relevant to AHS EMS are being assessed for implementation alongside other recommendations from the Alberta EMS Provincial Advisory Committee and EMS dispatch review reports.

AHS is working to improve EMS response times and increase access to timely emergency care. EMS is building new capacity, innovating to free ambulances up for urgent care needs and ensuring our EMS workforce is robust and well supported.

We have seen improvements in keeping suburban ambulances in their home communities, as well as response times.

Updates on each of the initiatives are provided here: EMS System Pressure & Mitigation

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. Our mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans. Our current focus is on reducing emergency department wait-times, improving EMS response times, increasing access to surgeries, and improving patient flow.