Patients living in northern Alberta will continue to have access to rapid, reliable, and safe emergency care when the new air ambulance base is relocated to the Edmonton International Airport (EIA) in March.
Alberta Health Services air ambulance operations are moving to a new 3,600 square-metre hangar at the Edmonton International Airport, immediately adjacent to the new STARS emergency air ambulance facilities. The move comes in response to the City of Edmonton’s decision to close the Edmonton City Centre Airport.
“In developing an alternative solution, our primary concern was, and is, to ensure the highest-possible patient safety and quality of care,” said Health Minister Fred Horne. “We have achieved that with this new state-of-the-art facility.”
The Edmonton International Airport was chosen because it’s the safest and most reliable option for patients being flown to Edmonton, due to its advanced infrastructure, proximity to major hospitals and the ability to land and take off in bad weather. The Health Quality Council of Alberta (HQCA) did an analysis of the Edmonton International as the new site for air ambulance services and all 18 of its recommendations have been reviewed in setting up the new operations.
To minimize the impact of longer driving times to hospitals from the airport – and to increase the efficiency of air ambulance patient transfers – the following measures are being introduced to ensure ongoing delivery of safe and quality care:
- A six-bed patient care area staffed by EMS staff, similar to an out-patient ward, within the base for in-bound and out-bound patients. Less urgent patients can receive care on site for short periods of time to improve co-ordination of flights.
- Dedicated ground ambulances based at EIA to transport patients to and from hospitals will allow aircraft and medical crews to be available for other calls sooner.
- Protocols will allow the most urgent patients to be flown from the Edmonton International Airport to tertiary hospitals using a STARS helicopter.
- Additional space in the hangar will allow patients to be transferred inside and away from bad weather.
Because of its close proximity to the new air ambulance facility, STARS will be able to transfer emergency patients from fixed-wing flights directly to hospitals in Edmonton. STARS will continue to land directly at hospitals when it transports a patient from a community hospital or from the scene of an emergency, such as a serious car crash.
STARS will shortly be launching its AW139 medically-equipped helicopter, which can provide a more rapid critical care response to a wider area, meaning better care for more patients. This new helicopter can also travel in icy and adverse weather.
“Our responsibility is to ensure safe, high quality and timely emergency medical services are maintained,” says Dr. Ian Phelps, Senior Medical Director for EMS. “Albertans can be assured they will continue to get a high quality of patient care from our dedicated team of health care providers. When you need emergency care, we will be there.”
About 3,000 patients are flown to Edmonton each year via medevac services. According to the HQCA, about 80 per cent of those are less urgent arriving for scheduled procedures, appointments, or for admission to a higher level of care, not for emergencies; about seven per cent of patients are flown to Edmonton for urgent access to critical care.
Fixed wing air ambulance is one part of an overall emergency medical response in Alberta that also includes dispatch, ground ambulance and helicopters. Alberta Health Services EMS collaborates with STARS and other medical first response partners to provide seamless care to Alberta residents, regardless of location.
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