+ RMA Rural Municipalities
of Alberta

Resolution ER1-08F

City Center Airport Closure's Effect on Air Ambulance

January 1, 2008
Expiry Date:
December 1, 2011
Active Status:
MD of Provost
Emergency Services
Accepted in Principle
Vote Results:

WHEREAS discussions are currently underway by Edmonton City Council regarding the closure of the Edmonton City Center Airport.  There will be Public Hearings in January 2009 with final decision to be made in July of 2009; and

WHEREAS the Edmonton City Center Airport serves North East BC, the territories and Northern and North central Alberta Air Ambulance with 5500 transfers annually; and

WHEREAS currently there are 10 fixed wing operators abd 12 aircraft transporting patients through Edmonton City Center Airport. STARS helicopters could not handle the volume, distances, or services to replace them; and

WHEREAS STARS 139 helicopters which have a greater range than the BK 117’s, however cannot land at many of the city hospitals.  If Edmonton City Center Airport is closed they would have to land at Edmonton International same as the fixed wing aircraft which would significantly increase travel time; and

WHEREAS the Minister of Health and Transportation may not be aware of the ramifications to the provincial healthcare system as a result of this possible closure;

Operative Clause:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the AAMDC lobby the Ministers of Health and Transportation on behalf of the rural residents of Alberta to find a way to maintain the speed of patient transport should the Edmonton City Center Airport be closed.

Member Background:

Currently there are 5500 fixed wing air ambulance flights into the Edmonton City Center Airport.  These flights are provided by 10 providers with 12 aircraft.  Flying patients into the Edmonton City Center Airport places the patients within minutes of hospitals by ambulance.

If Edmonton City Center Airport is shut down these flights would have to go into Edmonton International, putting the patients 30 minutes or more from a hospital by ambulance.  Even 10 minutes can make a difference in an emergency.

These fixed wing air ambulances transport to Edmonton from the entire Northern part of the province, in addition to servicing NE British Columbia and the territories.

Currently STARS can fly emergency patients directly to the Edmonton hospitals with their BK 117’s, of which 3 are operational province wide at any time.  However the BK 117’s have limited operational range of 250km, leaving many rural residents outside of the coverage area, relying solely on fixed wing or ground ambulance.

STARS also has 2 new 139 helicopters with extended range, one will be based in Edmonton, one in Calgary.  However, they cannot land at many of the Edmonton hospitals, as such they too will be using an airport and add significant transport time if they have to land at Edmonton International.  Even if the helipads at the Edmonton hospitals are redesigned to handle the 139’s, they cannot accommodate the workload the 12 planes currently do.

Fixed wing air ambulance provides more space than helicopters to allow emergency patient care during transit.  As such replacing fixed wing air ambulance with helicopters would not be feasible; both have a role to play in our healthcare system.

Fixed wing air ambulance allows the dispatch of specialized emergency personal such as neonatal intensive care or paediatric intensive care teams, allowing for improved ambulatory care then ground ambulance can provide.

Fixed wing air ambulance as opposed to ground ambulance can reduce the time required to transport patients to city hospitals.  Every community has different examples based on their distance from major hospitals.  For example for the Provost Hospital stabilizing a patient in emergency for transport typically takes 30-60 minutes from arrival at hospital.  Fixed wing air ambulance can make it here in 45 minutes once dispatched.  This means that typically by the time the patient is ready for transport the air ambulance is already waiting.  Once loaded on the plane the patient will be in Edmonton in 45 minutes and at hospital about 5 to 10 minutes after that.  To transport by ground ambulance is about 2.5 hours safely after preparing the patient for transport.  If Edmonton City Center Airport is closed, the time to hospital through Edmonton International would be approximately 45 minutes of flight and 30-45 minutes of ground ambulance.  This would extend total times from 50 -55 minutes to 75-90 minutes.

Due to the above reasons, it is felt closing the Edmonton City Center Airport will have unintended consequences for rural residents.  As such we are asking that alternatives which maintain the speed of transport for critical cases be implemented before the Edmonton City Center Airport is closed.

RMA Background:

*Apparently no AAMDC background was written for this resolution, following its adoption in November 2008. It was sent to government  without a background etc.*

Government Response:

Health and Wellness:
Ultimately, the decision on the future of the City Centre Airport rests with the City of Edmonton and the Edmonton Airport Authority. 

Alberta Health and Wellness is completing an impact analysis on the potential closure of the airport, which is scheduled for completion by the end of March 2009.  This analysis will look at potential impacts to the Air Ambulance Program and, in the event the city decides to close the airport, at options to ensure patients continue receiving the high quality and timely service they receive today.

Alberta Health and Wellness is studying the impact of what the potential closure of the Edmonton City Center Airport would be on patient access.  The City of Edmonton owns the Edmonton City Center Airport and leases it to the Edmonton Regional Airports Authority to operate.  As the owner of the Edmonton City Centre Airport, all decisions on the future of that facility will be made by the City of Edmonton.


Much debate has occurred since the announced closure of the Edmonton City Centre including the impact on medivac timeliness.  Various lobby groups have taken up the charge to maintain airport services citing such reasons. The Minister of Health and Wellness as well as the Premier have committed to ensuring the closure does not impact the level of patient care. It is the AAMDC’s understanding that internal studies have been completed by the ministry to ensure that all the impacts of moving air ambulance are known and can be mitigated. Further, the province is working on plans to develop an integrated air ambulance facility at the International Airport. The facility would become a rendezvous point for ground ambulances, fixed-wing airplanes and helicopters. As such, the AAMDC accepts in principles that the actions outlined above meet the intent of this resolution.

Provincial Ministries:
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