Alberta Health Services is touting its new air ambulance facility, slated to be up and running out of the Edmonton International Airport in March.

Officials said the AHS air ambulance operations will move to a new 3,600 square-metre hangar at the airport, a move being made in response to the closure of the 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,” Health Minister Fred Horne said in a press release. “We have achieved that with this new state-of-the-art facility.”

AHS said the new location was chosen because it’s the safest, most reliable option for patients being flown to the Edmonton area, citing its advanced infrastructure, proximity to major hospitals and greater ability to land, and take off in bad weather.

The Health Quality Council of Alberta analyzed the EIA as the new site for such services – and came up with 18 recommendations, all of which were considered by officials as they set up the new operation.

In addition to the size of the facility, it will also include a six bed patient care area on the base, staffed by paramedics with a similar set up to an out-patient ward, and ground ambulances based at EIA.

AHS has also set up protocols with STARS Air Ambulance, to allow the most urgent patients to be flown from the fixed-wing aircraft at EIA to hospitals using STARS helicopters.

“Our responsibility is to ensure safe, high quality and timely emergency medical services are maintained,” Dr. Ian Phelps, Senior Medical Director for EMS said in a press release. “Albertans can be assured they will continue to get a high quality of patient care from our dedicated team of healthcare providers.”

AHS said each year, about 3,000 patients are flown to Edmonton by medevac services.

According to statistics from the HQCA, about 80 percent of those are less urgent, arriving for scheduled procedures, appointments or for admission to a higher level of care – about seven percent are flown to Edmonton for emergency critical care.