Alberta Health Link call volume soars during pandemic, COVID queries make up 65 per cent

Call volume to Alberta’s health advice phone line has soared during the pandemic, according to data from Alberta Health Services.

In a statement to CTV News, AHS says 811 Health Link answered 365,238 individual calls last month. Pre-pandemic, call volume averaged about 60,000 per month. Since March 2020, that monthly average has soared to approximately 250,000 calls.

April 2021 was the busiest month on record for Health Link, with more than 505,600 calls answered.

Since then, 65 per cent of calls on average are COVID-19 related, said Kerry Williamson, AHS spokesperson.

The increased call demand has created longer wait times, with an average wait time of 30 to 60 minutes, with variations based on the time of day, Williamson added.

When asked if call volumes in January have been higher due to Omicron, Williamson said “it is hard to predict” the impact of the variant to date.

“Health Link has done some internal redeployment of staff to help respond to calls and better direct Albertans to the service they need,” he added.

In the last two weeks, 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Jan. 3 was the busiest time when 2,500 calls were received.

Soaring call volumes prompted Health link to create a new online self-care guide to give Albertans some information without calling the phone line.

Announced on Thursday, the web resource has information about managing COVID-19 symptoms, home care if you have the virus, and how to manage long-term coronavirus symptoms.

“Following the rapid spread of the Omicron variant throughout the province and the exponential growth in COVID-19 cases, many Albertans calling Health Link 811 are unsure how to manage their symptoms, or if they need to seek care with a positive COVID-19 test result,” AHS said in a statement.

“While much of the information has been available to Albertans throughout the pandemic, the new resource provides a one-stop guide to current and reliable information in one location.” 

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