11/26/2013 11:53 EST | Updated 01/26/2014 05:59 EST

Private Ambulance Service In Alberta Being Eyed By Province: Health Minister Fred Horne

EDMONTON - The Alberta government is considering turning as much as one-third of the ambulance work being done by Emergency Health Services over to someone else, possibly private contractors.

Health Minister Fred Horne says that would include inter-hospital transfers, which are often from long-term care facilities or nursing homes to hospitals for diagnostic tests.

Horne says they've got to make sure they're using the right equipment and the most highly trained personnel for emergencies.

Alberta Heath Services statistics show 400,000 ambulance trips per year in Alberta, with 30 per cent of them for inter-hospital transfers.

Horne says it's not a problem now but an aging population could put more pressure on the system.

Horne's comments come as municipal leaders have expressed concern about ambulance availability.

“It was done in the past prior to consolidation of ground ambulance under AHS," said Horne. "There were some parts of the province that had contracts with other providers to do this kind of work.

“I know that in Ontario and B.C. this has been a really big issue and there’s different ways to tackle it, but we’re committed to looking at this.”

Horne said 95 per cent of calls are now being dispatched by three call centres province-wide, and when dispatchers look at the map they can see where all ambulances are located at any given time.

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