A 21-year-old woman has been arrested after an ambulance was stolen from Edmonton's Royal Alexandra Hospital Tuesday morning. Police pursued the ambulance through downtown to the city's the west end.

The ambulance had been left in a secure bay at the hospital with the keys in the ignition as per protocol.

Just after 6 a.m., the woman, a patient in the hospital, jumped into the driver's seat of the ambulance and crashed through the bay doors of the downtown hospital.

She headed into west Edmonton, occasionally at high speed, with police close behind. 

The chase ended 30 minutes later outside city limits after RCMP joined the pursuit.

The pursuit came to a quiet end at a Shell gas station on Highway 16 at Rural Road 37 near Wabamun, where the driver pulled in and police were able to arrest her.

The woman faces numerous charges, including dangerous driving, theft over $5,000, failing to remain at the scene of a collision and driving an uninsured vehicle.

There were no injuries during the incident, and the woman was returned to the hospital.   

Betty Peters, manager of the gas station, said she saw the ambulance "flying down the highway."

"It had the lights on, but no sirens and there were no other rescue vehicles, which I thought was rather odd," she said.

"Maybe 25 minutes later that ambulance was being escorted into the parking lot. Within seconds the whole parking lot was swarmed with police vehicles with their sirens on."

Dale Weiss

EMS executive director Dale Weiss explains how a patient came to steal an ambulance at the Royal Alexandra Hospital. (CBC)

It's the first time in Edmonton an ambulance was taken from an ambulance bay, said Dale Weiss with EMS.

"This would certainly be very offsetting for all the staff as well as other people that were involved with this," he said. "It's highly unusual and very much a concern."

Weiss says the hospital protocol regarding ambulances is being reviewed to see if anything needs to change.

It's at least the fourth time an ambulance has been stolen in Edmonton in the last five years.