Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) Review

HEMS – An Alberta Solution

Helicopter air ambulances provide a vital service to Albertans across the province. As we review these services, we want your feedback to ensure that the needs of all Albertans are met in the most effective way possible.

Through a full review of Alberta’s Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) program we aim to more clearly define the role of HEMS providers, unify practices and procedures across the province, and determine the most effective funding model.

We want your input!

AHS wants to ensure that Albertans have a voice in the HEMS review.

Ask a question below and subscribe to this project (at right) so you receive updates and can provide your perspective as we progress through the HEMS review. This is just one of the tools we will use to engage our partners and stakeholders. We will also be hosting meetings and providing written updates to those who’d like to be kept up to date (so don’t forget to register!)

HEMS – An Alberta Solution

Helicopter air ambulances provide a vital service to Albertans across the province. As we review these services, we want your feedback to ensure that the needs of all Albertans are met in the most effective way possible.

Through a full review of Alberta’s Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) program we aim to more clearly define the role of HEMS providers, unify practices and procedures across the province, and determine the most effective funding model.

We want your input!

AHS wants to ensure that Albertans have a voice in the HEMS review.

Ask a question below and subscribe to this project (at right) so you receive updates and can provide your perspective as we progress through the HEMS review. This is just one of the tools we will use to engage our partners and stakeholders. We will also be hosting meetings and providing written updates to those who’d like to be kept up to date (so don’t forget to register!)

Ask a question

Do you have any questions about the HEMS review?

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  • Is cross border partnerships being considered or developed in regards to the provision of services? We have multiple remote communities that have little or no basic services. In the north we are closer to the South Slave region of the NWT than we are to our southern neighbors and partnerships for health and health provisions across the jurisdictional line could/would benefit us all.

    Lisa asked 6 days ago

    Hello and thanks for your questions. Each province and territory are responsible for services in their respective jurisdictions. The HEMS review will focus on Alberta. However, AHS has excellent relationships with our neighboring provinces, and may provide or request assistance from other jurisdictions, including NWT, subject to resource availability. 

  • Does AHS reimburse STARS for inter hospital transfers? Dalyn asked 18 days ago Hello and thanks for visiting the site and for your question. Since 2010, AHS has had an agreement with STARS for HEMS services which, under the current funding model, includes inter-hospital transfers. Asking the SAME questions with regards to HALO?

    Penny asked 8 days ago

    Hello and thanks for visiting the site and for your question.
    Each HEMS provider has a different agreement, as each has evolved differently over time. As we conduct the HEMS review we will be looking at funding models. Currently, HALO is reimbursed for each interfacility transfer while STARS provides interfacility transfers as part of their contract.

  • Why can’t you transfer government funding from STARS to HALO to ensure its operations?

    ACE asked 8 days ago

    Thank you for your question. 

    The Review is looking at funding and during the Review process all existing funding and operations will remain in place.  All helicopter programs are funded differently in Alberta as each program has evolved differently and provides different services.

  • What provision is being made for remote/wilderness situations. e.g. A Search and Rescue team has found a subject in the backcountry and a helicopter is determined to be the best response. What training will the helicopter medical staff have to respond to these situations where the ability to be self-sufficient may be important (There is a review of a situation where two medics almost died in a Coquihalla winter back country response where the helicopter left and could not get back. Has happened in Alberta to a few folks responding away from their ambulance too). Maybe someone with back country response experience should be one of the SMEs.

    Guy Kerr asked 9 days ago

    Thank you for your question.  Search and Rescue activities are out of scope for the HEMS Review.

    AHS EMS coordinates with Search and Rescue agencies, the RCMP and Fire for back country rescues.  EMS does not undertake technical rescue and relies on trained agencies to complete this piece of the rescue transport where EMS cannot directly access a patient.  After the patient is extracted, EMS facilitates the medical transport portion of the coordinated response.


  • As part of the AHS - HEMS review, will the government consider providing adequate and consistent financial support to ensure the helicopter life saving measures and emergency transportation, instead of relying on fund raising efforts?

    Tamara asked 11 days ago

    Thank you for your question.  As we conduct the review, we will be looking at funding models and determining standards to guide us into the future.

  • Does a private company dispatch all hems in Alberta and if so, what company is this?

    Gregory Joseph asked 26 days ago

    Thank you for your question.  Through an affiliation agreement with AHS and in collaboration with AHS EMS dispatch, STARS Link Center is the conduit for dispatching helicopters in Alberta using AHS dispatch criteria.

  • How are you currently serving remote areas in Alberta?

    about 1 month ago

    We have EMS resources to reach almost every community in Alberta through a combination of helicopter, fixed-wing and EMS ground ambulance.  EMS Dispatchers make decisions as to which resources to use based on a number of factors.

  • What does this HEMS review mean for my community’s existing medical helicopter service?

    about 1 month ago

    For now, nothing will change.  However, AHS is reviewing the use of medical helicopter services with the goal of optimizing response where it is needed, considering geographical distances, populations, safety considerations and funding availability. The information from the review might impact where and how resources are used in the future. 
  • Why doesn’t Stars focus on the area surrounding their “home bases” and allow for HALO and HERO to focus on the remote regions they are closer to? Whoever can reach the patient first, transport them to hospital and provide the lifesaving service is the air ambulance that needs to be dispatched.....enough of the competition between them all. In the end it’s about saving a life! Equal funding needs to be a priority!

    CTimmy asked 12 days ago

    Thank you for your interest in the AHS HEMS review. Current best practices considers Helicopter response area; fuel range, patient location and intended patient destination,  as well as patient clinical condition. There is some overlap in areas in which both STARS and HALO respond. STARS provides some differences in Critical Care capability than HERO and HALO. The HEMS review will consider clinical and  operational readiness and response as well as funding models.


  • It is my understanding that while HALO could service SW Saskatchewan as well, that province has refused to allow mercy flights by HALO into Saskatchewan. Is this something that has been or will be proposed again? It would seem to add to the use of an underutilized resource.

    Jim Willett asked 22 days ago

    Thank you for your interest in the HEMS review. Saskatchewan air ambulance coverage and response is outside of AHS jurisdiction and will not be part of the HEMS review. 

    However, AHS has excellent relationships with our neighboring provinces, and may provide or request assistance from other provinces, subject to resource availability. 


  • Who is considered a subject matter expert and what qualifications must they possess?

    charj asked 27 days ago

    Thank you for your question.

    Subject matter experts are individuals who have specialized knowledge and experience in a specific process, function or system. This project has access to national and provincial level subject matter experts that cover aviation safety, EMS (ground and air), EMS Dispatch, remote EMS access, pre-hospital care and governance. Some of the qualifications include:

    a. Education (i.e. Physician, Aviation Safety Management, Critical Care Paramedic training, business degree)

    b. Experience: time working with or within one or more related industries with relevant involvements (i.e. Air Medical experience, program management experience, helicopter experience, finance experience)

    c. Capacity to share knowledge


  • Does AHS reimburse STARS for inter hospital transfers?

    Dalyn asked 27 days ago

    Hello and thanks for visiting the site and for your question. Since 2010, AHS has had an agreement with STARS for HEMS services which, under the current funding model, includes inter-hospital transfers.

  • If I or a neighbour have an emergency, can a medical helicopter land in my field or property?

    30 days ago

    Helicopters can land in fields and other open spaces but must comply with Transport Canada Regulations and consider safety risks. In an emergency, call 911 to activate a full EMS response. Dispatchers will determine if a medical helicopter is appropriate.

  • Why is STARS funded more than HALO?

    Debbie Ross asked 30 days ago

    Thank you for your question.  All helicopter programs are funded differently in Alberta as each program has evolved differently and provides different services.  As we conduct the review, we will be looking at funding models and determining standards to guide us into the future.


  • What are your criteria for choosing to send a helicopter to an emergency? How do you decide whether to use a medical helicopter or a fixed wing/plane?

    30 days ago

    When coordinating the most appropriate EMS response to an incident, a number of factors are considered including where the patient is located,  travel time, level of medical care required (basic life support or advanced life support), any safety factors for the helicopter and crew and likely benefits to patient care and outcome.

    When we are moving patients from one facility to another (inter-facility transfer), the decision of whether to use a ground, fixed-wing or a helicopter takes into consideration clinical requirements of the patient among other factors. 

  • Can I request a medical helicopter to come to my area?

    about 1 month ago

    Use of medical helicopters is part of the integrated EMS response accessed through 911. Medical helicopters are not dispatched upon request, as callers would not necessarily be familiar with the available EMS options to best serve the patient. EMS dispatchers determine the most appropriate EMS response, which may include a helicopter, based on upon information received and circumstances of the emergency.

  • My community doesn't have a dedicated medical helicopter. Does this review mean we might be able to get one?

    about 1 month ago

    Medical helicopters are part of the overall EMS readiness and response system for the province. Ideally, medical helicopters should be strategically based to offer the most effective coverage for a geographic area. In order for a community to get support from a medical helicopter, it doesn’t necessarily need to be based in that community.

  • I live in a community that's currently served by two helicopters. How do you decide which one to send in an emergency?

    about 1 month ago

    Use of medical helicopters is part of the integrated EMS response accessed through 911. Helicopter dispatch and transport physicians determine the most appropriate EMS response, including which provider to use, depending on factors such as distance and time to get to the patient, the level of clinical care required for the patient, the equipment on board each helicopter, and the destination for the patient.

  • Where do medical helicopters fly currently in Alberta?

    about 1 month ago

    Helicopters can fly virtually anywhere in Alberta. Currently medical helicopter providers have established, dedicated bases in Calgary, Edmonton, Grande Prairie, Medicine Hat and Fort McMurray.

    Helicopters are used for inter-facility transfers (hospital to hospital) and emergency calls to the scene of an incident.