7 Alberta hospitals lost emergency department services in June

Another community lost ambulatory care, and a second had reduced hours for its entire hospital.

At the beginning of June, I reported that Alberta Health Services had cut services at hospitals in 8 communities in May, 6 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.

Smoky Lake

AHS announced the first closure on 1 June, when they said that they were closing down the emergency department at the George McDougall Healthcare Centre in Smoky Lake.

This was a 24-hour closure beginning at 08:00 that morning.

A week later, AHS announced a second 24-hour closure for this emergency department, starting at 08:00 on 8 June.

The following week, they announced a third 24-hour closure, which was scheduled to start at 08:00 on the 15th.

Like so many others, this closure was a result of AHS not having staffed a sufficient number of physicians for this hospital.

Nursing staff were on site, however, to conduct triage and assessments. EMS was rerouted to health facilities in surrounding communities.

Smoky Lake also lost their ER in August of last year.


Also on 1 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, 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”.

Lac La Biche

Another closure announcement of the month came on 2 June , when they said that they were closing down the emergency department at the Lac La Biche – William J. Cadzow Healthcare Centre twice.

This closure would last for 12 hours, starting at 20:00 the next day.

Unexpectedly, this was a result of the AHS’s “inability to secure physician coverage”.

On the 22nd, AHS said they’d be implementing a two 15-hour closures. The first closure was to begin at 17:00 on the 23rd, and the second was to begin at the same time on the 26th.

AHS announced a third 15-hour closure of this emergency department on the 18th and a fourth closure on 23 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, twice this past April, and three times this past May. Last May, Lac La Biche also lost “obstetrical and surgical services for an undetermined period”.


On the 16th, AHS announced that they were closing the emergency department at the Coronation Hospital and Care Centre.

The 24-hour closure was to begin at 08:00 on the 19th 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 and May.


The next day, AHS announced a 5-hour closure for the emergency department at the Ponoka Hospital and Care Centre. The closure started at 08:00 on the 18th.

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, Lacombe, and Red Deer.

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.

Swan Hills

On the 21st, AHS announced that the entire Swan Hills Healthcare Centre would have 12-hour closures every night between the 22nd and 24th, beginning at 19:00 each night.

The closure is because AHS hadn’t hired enough nurses for this hospital, leading “to a lack of available nursing staff and an inability to secure temporary coverage”.

EMS were to be rerouted to surrounding communities.

Swan Hills also lost ER service in JanuaryFebruaryMayJuly, and December of last year.

Rocky Mountain House

The following day, on the 14th, AHS announced that the hospital in Rocky Mountain House would have no emergency department services between 07:00 and 18:00 on the 23rd.

AHS didn’t indicate a cause for the closure; although they did indicate that there would be a lack of physician coverage.

The community lost their emergency department for brief periods in May 2021 and acute care beds in July 2021. It also lost obstetric services in January 2022.

Sylvan Lake

AHS announced on the 28th that they were closing the Sylvan Lake Advanced Ambulatory Care Service between 07:30 and 15:00 the following day.

However, the closure ended up being extended for the entire day.

The closure was 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, and May of this year.


On the 30th, AHS said that they’d be shutting down the emergency department in Beaverlodge between 19:00 that evening and 08:00 the next morning.

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.

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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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