A new initiative called the EMS-811 Shared Response Program is looking to speed up EMS response times by redirecting non-urgent 911 calls to 811 Healthlink and to the care of trained nurses while freeing up ambulances for urgent calls. 

The EMS-811 Shared Response Program, part of the Health Care Action Plan (HCAP) has been operating for the past two weeks and officials say it is already relieving pressure on ambulances. It is being reported that over the two-week period, the new initiative saw six per cent of non-urgent calls transferred to 811 and consequently freeing up ambulances. 

The process sees a 911 call answered by a trained emergency communications officer called a "call evaluator" and at that time, an ambulance is immediately dispatched. However, the evaluator continues to assess the caller. Through a careful, objective process the caller is assessed and if it is determined that the situation is non-urgent and does not need an ambulance response, the caller is then directly connected to 811 and to the care of trained nurses. At that time, the ambulance response is called off.

911 calls that are assessed as clinically appropriate for the new shared response system do not wait in the regular 811 queue and have a dedicated registered nurse for support. Callers are informed about this process and, if at any point it is determined an ambulance is required, an ambulance is dispatched.

Non-urgent calls account for 10 to 20 per cent of the total 911 call volume. 

Minister Copping says, “Empowering dispatchers to divert non-urgent calls to a dedicated team of experienced nurses within 811 when clinically appropriate is a win for Albertans. Everyone will have access to the appropriate level of care they need when they need it. The new approach makes our EMS system more responsive to the needs of Albertans.”