At the beginning of April, I reported that Alberta Health Services had cut services at hospitals in 8 communities in April, 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.
Lac La Biche
AHS announced the first closure on 1 May, when they said that they were closing down the emergency department at the Lac La Biche – William J. Cadzow Healthcare Centre twice.
Both closures would last for 15 hours, with the first beginning at 17:00 that evening and the second beginning at the same time the next day.
Unexpectedly, this was a result of the AHS’s “inability to secure physician coverage”.
Just 9 days later, AHS said they’d be implementing a similar closure again. This 15-hour closure was to begin at 17:00 on 10 May.
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 this past March, and twice this past April. Last May, Lac La Biche also lost “obstetrical and surgical services for an undetermined period”.
On 2 May, 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, and further extended at the beginning of March. With this new announcement, AHS was extending the closure for at least another month.
AHS said the closure was a result of “staffing challenges”, but didn’t go into more detail than that.
On 12 May, AHS announced that they were closing the emergency department at the Milk River Health Centre for a week, finally reopening at 17:00 on the 19th.
Four days after the hospital reopened their emergency department, however, they announced another closure, this one lasting for until 17:00 on the 26th.
Three days later, AHS announced a third closure, starting at 08:00 that morning and lasting until 17:00 the next day.
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.
On the 13th, AHS said that they’d be shutting down the emergency department in Beaverlodge between 07:00 and 19:00 that day.
The closure was a result of AHS’s inability to hire enough nurses.
AHS announced on the 16th that they were closing the Sylvan Lake Advanced Ambulatory Care Service between 07:30 and 15:00 that day.
The closure was due to AHS not being able to hire enough physicians.
Then on the 19th, AHS announced another closure for Sylvan Lake, with the ambulatory care not opening until 15:00 that day..
That’s a total of 12 hours.
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 January, February, March, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, and December of last year, and January, February, March, and April of this year.
Two days later, AHS announced that they were closing the emergency department at the Coronation Hospital and Care Centre.
The 24-hour closure was to begin at noon later that day and was 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.
For the final closure announcement, AHS published an update at the end of 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 in 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.
This new update has extended the closure until 5 July. Assuming the closure lasts, this will be a total of about 11 months without an emergency department.
As in August, the multi-week closures have all been a result of “sustained and significant shortages among nursing staff”, and AHS said that they are “working to resume regular operations in March, and will continue to reassess its ability to open sooner”.
And that’s not even counting the closure of the emergency department at the Grimshaw/Berwyn and District Health Centre, which has been in place since 1 November and was announced back on Halloween.
Every night since then, starting at 21:00, the emergency department is closed for 12 hours. AHS blames insufficient numbers of nurses in the area.
On 27 January, AHS announced they were extending the overnight closures for another two months, until the end of July. This will be 5 months straight with no overnight ER services, assuming AHS doesn’t issue another extension.
However, on 28 April, 3 months before that extension was to expire, AHS announced they were extending the closure for another month, until the end of August.
EMS were to be rerouted to Peace River (25 km), Fairview (58 km), Manning (83 km), McLennan (100 km), or Spirit River (112 km), as needed.
This list also doesn’t include closure because of wildfire evacuations.