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Airdrie EMS (Emergency Medical Services) funding and resources

Providing Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is a responsibility of the provincial government. The Province determines the number of EMS resources dedicated to each community and through Alberta Health Services (AHS), coordinates the system in which EMS resources operate.

History of EMS in Airdrie

  • Beginning in the 1980’s, the City of Airdrie provided integrated EMS and Fire services
    • This included full time staffing of ambulances. The integrated model allowed for consistent fire and medical response that balanced peak demands for either service. Additional ambulances could be brought online by shifting fire staff to ambulances and less frequently, EMS staff could move to staff fire trucks during large incidents.
  • EMS moves from public safety to healthcare
    • In 2008, the Provincial Government announced the transition of EMS delivery from municipalities to provincial jurisdiction within the umbrella of AHS. EMS is no longer considered a public safety system and now considered to be healthcare.
    • The City entered a contract with AHS to maintain the existing service in which AHS paid for a set number of ambulances. In a short period of time, it was no longer feasible to maintain EMS service through contract as the City was fined each time EMS staff were used for fire response and no compensation was provided for additional ambulances being staffed by fire crews. City EMS resources would also be deployed outside of Airdrie.
  • Ambulance service in Airdrie transitions from municipal authority to the Province
    • In 2010, the Province provided Airdrie with a commitment that there would be no reduction in service to the city, including the number of ambulances available. (Currently ambulances in Airdrie do more responses outside of Airdrie than inside Airdrie.)
    • The new provincial system was “borderless”, in which ambulances no longer serve a specific area but can be dispatched into neighbouring jurisdictions with the rationale to ensure the closest ambulance responds to serious calls.
    • Several Alberta cities have continued to provide EMS through municipally run EMS/Fire services (with EMS service contracted under AHS). These municipalities have no control over their EMS resources (response areas, hallway waits or number of funded units/staff)
  • Medical first response (MFR) program begins in Airdrie
    • After the transition of EMS to the Province, Airdrie Fire Department (AFD) was established as a MFR agency with AHS. The purpose would be to support EMS in co-response to ensure emergency lifesaving medical care was always available in Airdrie.
    • This level of service has been maintained since that time.

Municipal support for Provincial EMS response

Although not required by the Province, some municipalities, such as Airdrie, choose to provide Basic Life Support (BLS) emergency medical response by training members of local fire departments to provide this level of emergency lifesaving medical care.

Before joining AFD, firefighters must hold a valid Primary Care Paramedic (formerly Emergency Medical Technician) registration with Alberta College of Paramedics.

The cost to provide residents in the City of Airdrie with a guaranteed BLS emergency medical response through AFD is approximately $100,000 per year. This includes medical equipment and supplies as well as, training and professional fees for fire members.

That’s approximately $1.25 per resident annually. The City of Airdrie and Council believe that the provision of this service is essential to ensuring lifesaving emergency medical response is available whenever our residents need it.

EMS response times and the number of requests for medical response are outside of the City’s control but emergency medical response through AFD is one way we can support Airdrie residents in a time of medical need.

AFD medical response information as it relates to EMS

The following statistics were current as of April 2023.

AFD's average time on scene prior to EMS 

EMS Arrival after AFD Arrival line graph

AFD can only provide immediately lifesaving interventions, a timely EMS system is needed for all parts to function well together. The longer AFD waits for EMS arrival the less availability there is to do other calls. 20.2 per cent of medical responses overlap other calls as of April 2023.

AFD's longest wait For EMS arrival 

Bar graph showing the longest wait times for EMS

 AFD medical responses by year (Calls where AFD response was requested by EMS.)

The stats below to not include AFD calls where patient care may have been provided as part of an AFD response (ie. vehicle collision or rescue) or calls where AFD requests EMS assistance (ie. building fires, ice rescue or hazardous materials) 

Bar graph showing the number of AFD medical responses

AFD medical call volume is growing quickly but at the same percentage of the total responses for the department. EMS responses are not increasing out of proportion to other event types currently.

2020 to 2022 show an increase of EMS requests for assistance on emergency medical responses which are triggered by delayed EMS response of greater than 10 minutes.

Percentage of time AFD arrived before EMS on a medical response call 

Pie chart showing who arrived on scene first between EMS and AFD