14 Alberta communities lost hospital services since May

One of the communities had their emergency department closed 13 times.

A month ago, I wrote a news story highlighting that Alberta Health Services had reduced health services in 5 communities. That was in addition to a story in June and one in May reporting on other closures and reductions.

In total, there were 8 communities affected by these reductions and closures. And there have been several other reductions during the month since I published my last story.

For example, the community of McLennan lost emergency services when AHS shut down down the emergency department at the Sacred Heart Community Health Centre in two shifts between 17 July and 19 July. The department was closed for a total of 18 hours.

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EMS were directed to take patients to High Prairies, Peace River, or Valleyview if needed. These communities were between 50 and 90 kilometres away.

Last week, AHS shut down 1 out of every 4 acute care beds at the same hospital. That reduction will be in place for over a month, ending on 7 September, and is a result of staffing shortages.

AHS also closed the emergency department at the St. Theresa General Hospital in Fort Vermilion ever night between 22:00 and 7:00 the next morning, from 19 July until the end of the month. In total, the hospital lost emergency department services for 117 hours.

Nursing staff were available for triage and assessments, but they referred patients to High Level 81 kilometres away if they needed hospital care.

The emergency department closures in both McLennan and Fort Vermilion were because of a lack of physicians who could cover the shifts.

On 23 July, AHS closed 7 treatment spaces in the emergency department of the hospital in Red Deer. That amounts to 1 in 8 beds.

This closure was also related to a staffing shortage, and AHS indicated that they’re hiring nearly 20 people to deal with that shortage. There was no indication on when or under what conditions the treatments spaces will reopen.

Five days later, AHS reported that they’re taking out 10 acute care beds in Westlock for over a month. Also because of a staffing shortage.

This isn’t the first time the community has seen service reductions from AHS. It lost some obstetric care for 2 months, starting in May.

Last weekend, Edson lost surgical services for 53 hours at the Edson Healthcare Centre. This included C-section and was due to an anesthetist shortage. The town of Hinton, which is 86 kilometres away, was the backup plan for any surgeries that arose during that period.

Earlier this past week, AHS announced that the emergency department in the community of Consort would be shut down yesterday and today, as well as next week on the 16th. Technically, it will be closed over the weekend, as well, but it’s normally closed for the weekend. The media release didn’t indicate the exact number of hours for the closure.

Finally, just yesterday, the emergency department in Spirit River was closed for 24 hours, opening up as of 8:00 this morning. And once agin

As with similar emergency department closures, the closures in Edson and Spirit River were once again because of a physician shortage, and nursing staff were on site for triage and assessments.

When we combine these announcements with the ones I reported on in May, June, and July, we see that these closures have affected 14 communities in total:

  • Boyle
  • Consort
  • Edmonton
  • Edson
  • Elk Point
  • Fairview
  • Fort Vermilion
  • Lacombe
  • McLennan
  • Red Deer
  • Rocky Mountain House
  • Spirit River
  • St. Paul
  • Westlock

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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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