11 Alberta hospitals lost emergency department services in July

One community saw it’s ER closed 5 times last month for a combined 384 hours. Another has been without an ER for nearly a year.

At the beginning of June, I reported that Alberta Health Services had cut services at hospitals in 9 communities in June, 7 of which lost their emergency department.

This is a continuation of similar closures throughout 2021, starting in May of that year. And it’s driven primarily by a lack of physicians in the communities.

Well, last month, AHS announced that they were once again issuing closures at various hospitals around the province.


The first closure was technically announced in June. On the last day of the month, AHS said that they’d be shutting down the emergency department in Beaverlodge between 19:00 that evening and 08:00 the next morning, which would have been 1 July.

The closure was a result of AHS’s inability to hire enough nurses.

Beaverlodge’s emergency department saw closures last MayJulyAugustNovember, and December, too, as well as this past January, March, and May.


Back at the beginning of June, AHS issued a notice for the closure of the emergency department at the Tofield Health Centre.

Originally, this closure was introduced at the end of November, for the month of December. The closure was an overnight closure, lasting 12 hours beginning at 20:00 every night, 7 days a week.

On the 29th of December, they declared that they were extending the restriction on the operating hours at the emergency department until February. However, in February, they were extending the restriction until 2 March, further extended it at the beginning of March, and extended it again on 2 May.

With this new announcement, AHS was extending the closure for at least two weeks. However, on 15 May, they announced yet another extension, this time until “later this summer”.

At the end of June, however, they announced the closure would continue but the hours would change, with the emergency department being closed between 23:00 and 07:00 every night.

AHS said the closure was a result of “staffing challenges”, but didn’t go into more detail than that. That being said, during the latest announcement, they reported that new nursing hires are being “oriented to the site”.


Speaking of the end of June, AHS issued another closure on the 30th for July. This one was for the community of Viking.

Rather than closing another emergency department, however, AHS said that they were shutting down obstetrical services at the Viking Health Centre.

This closure was to run for 48 hours, beginning at 07:00. on the morning of 1 July.

AHS announced a second 48-hour cancellation of obstetrical services on the 21st, effective as of 07:00 the following morning.

AHs claimed that the closure was “a result of staffing vacancies and an unexpected illness”. Apparently, they didn’t have a large enough frontline workforce to account for contingencies.

AHS planned to redirect obstetrical patients to hospitals in other communities; however, emergency obstetrical services would still be available in Viking through the emergency department there.


Also on the 30th of June, AHS announced that they were closing the emergency department at the Coronation Hospital and Care Centre. However, the announcement was technically for 5 closures:

6 July, 08:007 July, 12:0028 hours
10 July, 08:0011 July, 08:0024 hours
13 July, 08:0014 July, 12:0028 hours
17 July, 08:0018 July, 08:0024 hours
20 July, 08:0021 July, 12:0028 hours

But wait! There’s more!

On the 26th, AHS announced one more closure in July. The 17-hour closure was to begin at 19:00 the following evening. The announcement included 8 closures for August, as well, but I’ll cover those next month.

That’s a combined loss of 149 hours during the month of July.

These closures were due to AHS’s inability to have sufficient staffing levels of physicians.

Nursing staff were on hand for first aid and triage to other facilities in the region.

EMS were to be rerouted to hospitals in Castor (35 km), Hanna (90 km), and Stettler (95 km).

Coronation also lost their emergency department just this past April, May, and June.

Milk River

AHS made a fifth July closure announcement on 30 June. This time, they said that they were closing the emergency department at the Milk River Health Centre.

Milk River would lose their emergency department for 24 hours, beginning at 08:00 on 3 July.

A week later, they announced another closure, this one lasting for 10 hours on the 7th, beginning at 08:00.

The next day, AHS announced a third closure, but this one was supposed to rung for 4 days, from 17:00 on the 9th until 17:00 on the 13th. That’s a total of 96 hours for this one closure. However, just one day into the closure, they announced that they found physician coverage, limiting the closure to just 41 hours.

However, 3 days later, they announced a week-long closure. It was scheduled to run from 8:00 on 14 July until 17:00 on 21 July, for a total of 177 hours.

AHS made a 4th closure announcement on the same day that the third closure was supposed to end, on the 21st. This 5-day closure was to begin at 17:00 on the 23rd and end at 17:00 on the 28th, for a total of 120 hours.

On the 30th, AHS announced a fifth closure for Milk River, lasting for 12 hours beginning at 07:00 that morning.

The five closures collectively added up to a combined total of 384 lost hours in July for this hospital.

This was all due to insufficient staffing levels of physicians.

Nursing staff were on-site to provide care for individuals in community support beds and long-term care residents, and EMS were redirected to Lethbridge.

Milk River also lost their ER in FebruaryMaySeptemberOctober, and December of last year, as well as JanuaryFebruary, and May of this year.

Lac La Biche

On the 6th, AHS announced that they were closing down the emergency department at the Lac La Biche – William J. Cadzow Healthcare Centre.

This closure would last for 16 hours, starting at 16:00 in the evening of the 6th and lasting until 08:00 the next morning.

Just four days later, they announced a second ER closure for this community. This time, it was to last for 24 hours and would begin at 08:00 on the morning of the 10th.

AHS announced a third closure a week later. Like the first, this on was to last for 16 hours and would begin at 16:00, but beginning on the 18th.

A week after that, they announced two more closures. The first was to begin at 08:00 on the 25th and was scheduled to last for 48 hours. The second was supposed to be 24 hours long, beginning at 08:00 on the 28th.

That’s combined loss of 128 hours during the entire month of July.

Unexpectedly, all of the closures were a result of the AHS’s “inability to secure physician coverage”.

Nursing staff were on hand for triage and assessments during all closures, but those needing emergency care were rerouted to emergency departments in other communities in the region.

The community lost their emergency department three times back in June of 2022, once the subsequent August, twice in both past March and April, three times this past May, and twice this past June. Last May, Lac La Biche also lost “obstetrical and surgical services for an undetermined period”.


On the 3rd, AHS announced a 9-hour closure for the emergency department at the Ponoka Hospital and Care Centre. The closure was to start at 08:00 te following morning.

However, they announced the next day that they managed to find sufficient staffing to fill the gap in physician coverage they had announced the day before.

That luck wouldn’t last forever, unfortunately, as less than a week later, they announced another closure for this emergency department. The 15-hour closure was planned to begin at 17:00 on the 10th.

As expected, the closure was a result of the AHS not hiring enough physicians to provide adequate coverage in this emergency department.

EMS calls in Ponoka were re-routed to facilities in Wetaskiwin and Lacombe.

This isn’t the first time that Ponoka has lost it’s emergency department either. It was closed down for part of one day last AprilAugust, and September, as well as this past March and June.

Drayton Valley

On 5 July, Drayton Valley found out that they were losing their emergency department when AHS announced they planned to close it for 9.5 hours, starting at 22:30 that night.

This closure, like so many others over the past two years, was because of insufficient physician coverage.

Nurses were to be on hand for triage and assessment purposes, but they were also available for emergency first aid, if needed.

EMS calls were rerouted to facilities in Devon, Leduc, and Stony Plain.

AHS had closed this emergency department once before, back in September 2022.


AHS published an update back in May for an ongoing closure of the emergency department at the Consort Hospital and Care Centre.

On 6 December, AHS announced they were extending a closure for the emergency department in the community of Consort.

This closure was announced last August, and AHS expected that it could open in early September; however, they failed to resolve the staffing challenges that led to the initial closure. That led to an extension in October, an extension in November, and another extension in December, which was scheduled to last for 3 months.

At the end of those 3 months, however, they had still not solved their staffing shortages and announced another 3-month extension in March.

That May update had extended the closure until 5 July. However, when the extension deadline arrived, AHS once again announced a closure extension. This time, the closure was for just one month, until 2 August.

However, just two three weeks later, on the 27th, AHS announced they were tacking an extra two weeks onto that extension, making it last until 15 August.

Assuming the closure lasts, this will be a total of a year without an emergency department.

As was the case last August, the multi-month closures have all been a result of “sustained and significant shortages among nursing staff”.

Patients needing emergency or acute care services were to be redirected to facilities in Coronation, Castor, or Provost as needed.

Consort lost emergency department services in June, August, September, and December of last year, as well this past January, February, March, April, and May.

Sylvan Lake

AHS announced on the 12th that they were closing the Sylvan Lake Advanced Ambulatory Care Service 4 times over the next week.

  • July 13 from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., with service resuming July 14 at 7:30 a.m.
  • July 14 from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., with service resuming July 15 at 7:30 a.m.
  • July 17 from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.
  • July 18 from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. (all day closure) with service resuming July 19 at 7:30 a.m.
13 July, 14:0013 July, 22:008 hours
14 July, 14:0014 July, 22:008 hours
17 July, 14:0017 July, 22:008 hours
18 July, 07:3019 July, 22:0014.5 hours

Keep in mind, that ambulatory care service is available at the Sylvan Lake Community Health Centre between 07:30 and 22:00 under normal circumstances. It is typically not a 24-hour service.

Two weeks later, AHS announced two more ambulatory care closures. The first was to last the entire day on the 26th, and the second was to be in effect between 07:30 and 15:00 on the 28th.

That’s a combined loss of 60.5 hours during the month of July.

The closures were due to AHS not being able to hire enough physicians.

This isn’t the first time the community has lost ambulatory care; they lost it for 7 days in August 2021, over the Christmas holidays in 2021, as well as JanuaryFebruary, March, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, and December of last year, and January, February, March, April, May and June of this year.

Pincher Creek

On the 21st, AHS announced that they were closing down the emergency department at the Pincher Creek Health Centre.

The closure was actually two 12-hour closures, both of them beginning at 19:30, one starting on the 22nd and the second on the 23rd.

Of course, this closure was a result of AHS not having staffed a sufficient number of physicians for this hospital.

During the temporary closure, nursing staff will remain on-site to provide care for inpatients.

Patients needing emergency care were redirected to hospitals in Cardston, Crowsnest Pass, Fort Macleod, or Lethbridge.

Rocky Mountain House

On the 27th, AHS announced that the hospital in Rocky Mountain House would have no emergency department services twice during the final week of the month.

The first closure was to start at 16:00 the following day and last for 15 hours. The second closure was for 11 hours, starting at 05:00 on the 30th.

Like so many others, these closures were “due to gaps in physician coverage”.

The community lost their emergency department for brief periods in May 2021 and this past June, acute care beds in July 2021, and lost obstetric services in January 2022.


That same day, AHS announced that they were closing the emergency department at the Vermilion Health Centre. The 10-hour closure was to begin at 07:00 the following morning.

Unsurprisingly, the closure was a result of not having hired enough physicians.

Nurses were on hand to provide assessment services, as well as emergency first aid, as needed, but generally, patients were to be redirected to facilities in Lloydminster, Wainwright, and Elk Point during the closure.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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