7 Alberta hospitals lost emergency department services in April

Another community lost ambulatory care twice.

At the beginning of April, I reported that Alberta Health Services had cut services at hospitals in 9 communities in March, 8 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.

Milk River

AHS’s first closure announcement for April was actually announced in March.

On 28 March, AHS announced that they were closing the emergency department at the Milk River Health Centre for the rest of the month, as well as for the first two days of April, finally reopening at 08:00 on the 3rd.

That’s a total of 56 hours this one hospital was closed last month. That’s an average of 13 hours and 21 minutes a 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.

Milk River also lost their ER in February, May, September, October, and December of last year, as well as January and February of this year.


On 3 April, AHS announced that another community would lose emergency department service: Wabasca.

According to the announcement, the Wabasca Health Care Centre would have no emergency department service for 20 hours, beginning at noon on that day.

AHS indicated that the closure was because they hadn’t hired enough physicians.

EMS were to be rerouted to Slave Lake (122 km), Athabasca (175 km), or High Prairie (250 km).

This community also lost emergency department service in January, FebruaryMarch, April, MayJune, August, and September of 2022, as well as this past March.


The second closure announcement was made on the 11th.

AHS reported that they were closing the emergency department at the Coronation Hospital and Care Centre.

The 24-hour closure was to begin at 07:00 the next morning 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).

Lac La Biche

On 12 April, AHS announced 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 5 days later, AHS said they’d be implementing similar closures again. The first 15-hour closure was to begin at 17:00 on 17 April, and the second started at the same time the following day.

Nursing staff were on hand for triage and assessments, 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, and twice this past March. Last May, Lac La Biche also lost “obstetrical and surgical services for an undetermined period”.

Fort Vermilion

AHS announced on 13 April that the emergency department at St. Theresa General Hospital in Fort Vermilion was going to have no lab or diagnostic imaging services for 8.5 hours twice a week every week for about a month and a half.

The first closure was to begin at 23:00 on 17 April, and then occur every Monday and Tuesday until the 31st of this month.

These closures were a result of AHS’s “inability to secure on-call lab and diagnostic imaging staff”.

This isn’t the first time that the emergency department at this hospital has been affected by closures. AHS also closed the emergency department at the St. Theresa General Hospital in Fort Vermilion every night between 22:00 and 7:00 the next morning, from 19 July 2021 until the end of that month. In total, the hospital lost emergency department services for 117 hours.

Sylvan Lake

AHS announced on the 19th that they were closing the Sylvan Lake Advanced Ambulatory Care Service an hour early—18:00, instead of 22:00.

The closures were due to “a temporary nursing shortage”.

Then on the 25th, AHS announced another early closure for Sylvan Lake, beginning at 14:00 later that day, 8 hours sooner than normal.

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 JanuaryFebruary, March, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, and December of last year, and January, February, and March of this year.


AHS announced on 20th April that they were shutting down the emergency department in Stettler between noon and 17:00 that day.

Unsurprisingly, this closure was because of an insufficient number of physicians in the area to properly staff the emergency department.

Nursing staff were on site for assessments and triage, and EMS were redirected to facilities in Lacombe, Red Deer, and Drumheller.

Stettler had a 24-hour closure in May, June, and August last year, as well as a daytime closure last September.


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.

Grimshaw lost its emergency department last JulyAugust, and September, too.

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By Kim Siever

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

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