Alberta Health Services says 9 new ambulances now operating in Calgary, Edmonton

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One of nine new ambulances deployed to Calgary and Edmonton is pictured in this photo submitted by Alberta Health Services. AHS says it continues to experience significant pressure on the health-care system due to a variety of factors. (Submitted by Alberta Health Services - image credit)
One of nine new ambulances deployed to Calgary and Edmonton is pictured in this photo submitted by Alberta Health Services. AHS says it continues to experience significant pressure on the health-care system due to a variety of factors. (Submitted by Alberta Health Services - image credit)

Nine new ambulances are now on the streets of Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta Health Services says, with the hope they can relieve some of the pressures on emergency service calls across the province.

The health authority says four of the new ambulances are in Calgary and five are in Edmonton.

Health-care systems in Alberta have been struggling after two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. Emergency calls have been soaring.

AHS says higher-than-normal volumes of seriously ill patients, the impacts of the pandemic and increased staff absences due to illness have all contributed to the "significant pressure" on the system.

WATCH | Patients in Alberta are feeling the strain of health-care staffing shortages:

"We continue to see a high rate of sick-time utilization, we continue to see a high rate of what we call longer-term book-offs for folks that need additional time off to rest and recover," said Darren Sandbeck, chief paramedic and senior provincial director with AHS.

He added that a large volume of calls is keeping EMS crews busy — they have seen a 30 per cent increase in calls over the past 15 months.

"That's happening across all call types and all parts of the province. But order of magnitude in Calgary and Edmonton, that increase has a bigger impact on our metro centres."

The health authority also said it has filled 12 of 40 primary care paramedic positions announced earlier this year in Calgary, and 20 in Edmonton.

Four new, non-ambulance transport vehicles have also been added in Edmonton.

Statistics previously provided to CBC News by AHS showed that in the second quarter of 2022, there was a 12 per cent increase in emergency department visits provincially compared to the same quarter the year before.

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