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New westside station to reduce EMS response times, says AHS

By: Stacie Snow

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Feb 22, 2012 04:03 pm

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Alberta Health Services (AHS) is counting on its new ambulance station, to be open at the Bethany Care Centre by the end of February, to cut its response times.

AHS representatives told City council that its Emergency Medical Services (EMS) response times are 14 minutes, 90 per cent of the time, Feb. 21.

At the same time, call volume is increasing, according to Darren Sandbeck, AHS executive director of EMS for Calgary and Central Zones. From April 1, 2010 to March 2011, EMS responded to 2,633 calls. From April 1, 2011 to Feb. 14, 2012, EMS responded to 1,910 calls. Sandbeck said AHS has no target response times provincially.

“Our first priority is to provide safe quality and timely patient care to all residents of Alberta,” said Sandbeck.

“Our second EMS station will open in Airdrie by the Bethany Care Centre by the end of February and that will improve response times especially on the west side of the city tracks. We will continue to have discussions with the City in relation to future response stations in the city.”

AHS took over ambulance service from the City’s integrated fire and emergency service in July 2010.

In March 2011, AHS representatives reported that response times increased about 34 per cent, despite a 12 per cent decrease in call volume.

Shortly after, council implemented a co-response program between the Airdrie Fire Department (AFD) and AHS Emergency Medical Services.

AHS is also changing the way they track calls. Staff no longer reports on a breakdown of calls: Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, depending on the severity. Now only “lights and sirens” calls are reported.

The fact that AHS’ response times have not improved significantly worried several City aldermen.

“These times haven’t changed since you reported to us last time,” said Alderman Ron Chapman.

“In comparison, what are our firefighters’ first response times?”

Mark Locking, director of community safety, said AFD attends Echo, Delta and Charlie, or time sensitive calls.

“From April to December of 2011, we were at five minutes and 31 seconds 90 per cent of the time. Our goal is eight minutes or less.”

Airdrie firefighters typically go to one medical-related call per day.

Properly resourced?

Since the report in March of last year, AHS has realigned its coverage area to cover the counties of Mountainview, Kneehill and Rock View, an area that encompasses between 60,000 and 70,000 people.

Alderman Allan Hunter asked how AHS plans to improve response times with the increase in call volume.

“You don’t have a growth strategy in mind?” he asked. “Our response times are flatlining but we have a lot more calls. What can I say to residents that AHS is doing to address those issues?”

Sandbeck reiterated that the second station on the west side of the city would improve response times and AHS will continue to monitor the situation in Airdrie.

Sandback said, “We believe Airdrie is properly resourced today.

The milestone for us is the westside station and we are hoping to get that up and running and then we would be very happy to come forward to council again with another report.”

“I am looking forward to hearing the new numbers once the second station is up and running,” said Deputy Mayor Kelly Hegg.


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