At the beginning of November, I reported that Alberta Health Services had cut services at hospitals in 6 rural communities in September.
This is a continuation of similar closures throughout 2021, starting last May. 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 announcement occured on 1 November 2022. AHS said that they planned to shut down the emergency department at the Swan Hills Healthcare Centre for 18 hours beginning at 13:00 that afternoon.
The closure was because AHS hadn’t been employing sufficient numbers of nursing staff. Plus, they couldn’t find any locum coverage either.
AHS reported that EMS calls were to be re-routed to Westlock (118 km), Whitecourt (80 km), or Slave Lake (116 km).
The next day, 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, and now a third extension.
As in August, the multi-week closures have all been a result of insufficient staffing levels, and AHS said that the emergency department would reopen when those levels “stabilized”, which they hope will be in December.
Consort lost emergency department services in June, August, September, and December of last year, as well this past January, February, April, May, and, as I indicated above, August, September, and October.
Speaking of closure extensions, two days later, AHS announced that they planned to continue keeping the emergency department at the Daysland Health Centre closed overnight, Mondays through Thursdays.
This closure was a result of insufficient physician levels and began at 22:00 every night and ended at 07:00 the following morning.
On the 7th, AHS said that they’d be shutting down the emergency department in Beaverlodge for 25 hours.
The closure, which was a result of AHS not employing a sufficient number of physicians in the area, was scheduled to begin at 07:00 on the morning of 7 November.
Nurses were on hand to provide assessment and triage services, and AHS were to be rerouted to Grande Prairie, which is 42 kilometres away.
AHS announced their next closure a week later, on 14 November, when they said that they’d be shutting down the emergency department overnight at the Cold Lake Healthcare Centre.
The 8-hour closure would run from 23:00 that night until 07:00 the following morning.
Nine days later, on the 23rd, AHS reported that they were closing Cold Lake’s ER a secon time, starting at 23:00 that night and reopening at 7:00 the next morning.
These closures were because AHS was unable to hire a sufficient number of physicians to provide sufficient coverage.
Nurses were on hand for assessment and triage services.
Cold Lake lost their emergency department 16 times in January, 3 times in February, twice in March, twice in April, once in May, three times in June, four times in July, twice in September, and twice in October, as well.
On the 22nd, AHS announced that the Sylvan Lake Advanced Ambulatory Care Service would be closed for 7.5 hours, as of 07:30 the next morning.
The closure was a result of AHS not hiring enough physicians.
This isn’t the first time the community has lost ambulatory care; they lost it for 7 days last August, as well as over Christmas and this past January, February, March, May, June, July, August, September, and October.
The final closure announced in November was on the 30th, when AHS declared they they were extending a restriction on the operating hours that they had introduced at the end of October, for the month of November.
The new extension is supposed to last throughout December, during which time, the emergency department will be closed every weeknight starting at 17:00 and reopening at 08:00 the following morning.