9 Alberta hospitals lost ER service in January

A 10th community lost its ambulatory care service.

At the beginning of January, I reported that Alberta Health Services had cut services at hospitals in 13 communities in December, 10 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.

Sylvan Lake

The first closure was announced on the 5th, for the Sylvan Lake Advanced Ambulatory Care Service.

They actually announced two closures. The first closure was for 7.5 house beginning at 07:30 on the following morning. The second closure would run from 14:00 until 22:00 on the 9th.

The closures were due to “gaps in physician coverage”.

At the end of the month, they announced that ambulatory care in this community would be shut down again, this time for 8 hours, beginning at 14:00 that afternoon.

This isn’t the first time the community has lost ambulatory care; they lost it for 7 days last August, as well as over last Christmas and this past JanuaryFebruary, March, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, and December.


The first closure was announced on the 7th. AHS said that they’d be shutting down the emergency department in Beaverlodge for 17 hours.

The closure, which was a result of AHS not employing a sufficient number of physicians in the area, was scheduled to begin at 15:00 that afternoon.

13 days later, on the 20th, AHS announced a second closure for this emergency department, beginning at 17:00 that evening and lasting for 15 hours.

AHS announced a third closure for the Beaverlodge ER the following day, running for 15 hours beginning at 17:00 that evening.

Nurses were on hand during the first closure to provide assessment and triage services, but everything was completely shut down for the second. EMS were to be rerouted to Grande Prairie, which is 42 kilometres away.

Beaverlodge’s emergency department saw closures last MayJuly, August, November, and December, too.

Elk Point

On 9 January, AHS announced a 12-hour emergency department closure for the Elk Point Healthcare Centre.

The closure was to start at 19:00 that evening.

Just 4 days later, AHS announced two additional closures. The first was a 12-hour closure beginning at 07:00 on the 13th, and the second started at 07:00 the following morning and would last 16 hours.

AHS made a third closure announcement on the 17th. This additional 12-hour closure was to begin at 19:00 that evening.

Then just the next day, on the 18th, they announced another closure. The 12-hour closure was supposed to begin at 07:00 that morning.

That’s a combined loss of 66 hours. But it didn’t end there. Because of all these closures, AHS finally decided to shutdown all overnight services in the emergency department in Elk Point. This closure was to last for a month, until 20 February, and be in effect between from 19:00 every night until 07:00 the following morning.

These closures were a result of AHS having insufficient levels of nursing staff.

The community lost its emergency department several times in 2021, in June, July, August, September, October, and November, as well as this past AugustSeptember and October.


On 10 January, AHS announced a 24-hour closure at the Sacred Heart Community Health Centre emergency department in the Northern Alberta community of McLennan.

This closure was prompted by AHS having a insufficient number of physicians on staff. EMS calls were scheduled to redirect to High Prairie, which was 50 kilometres away.

This closure follow 4 closures in the community in 2021: in JuneAugustSeptember, and November. They also saw several closures last January, a 24-hour closure in February, and a 24-hour closure in March, as well as a closure this past December.

Milk River

AHS announced over two later, on the 26th, that they were shutting down the emergency department in the Milk River Health Centre for several days.

The closure would begin at 08:00 that morning and end at 08:00 on the 30th of January, for a total of 48 hours. This is in addition to a closure they announced last month that lasted until the 3rd of January.

Once again, it was 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 FebruaryMaySeptember, October, and December of last year.

Cold Lake

AHS announced a closure in a 5th community on 27 January, 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 on 29 January until 07:00 the following morning.

This closures was because AHS was unable to hire a sufficient number of physicians to provide adequate coverage.

Nurses were on hand for assessment and triage services.

Cold Lake lost their emergency department 16 times last January, 3 times in February, twice in March, twice in April, once in May, three times in June, four times in July, and twice each in September, October, November. and December as well.


The next closure announcement for January actually occured on 29 September 2022.

Last July, AHS announced that they were extending a temporary closure for the Boyle Healthcare Centre until 1 September. During this closure, the hospital would only be open between 9:00 and 20:00 every day.

However, at the end of August, AHS reported that they were extending this closure until the end of September. This new September announcement extended the closure until the end of October.

At the end of October, however, AHS issued yet another extension, this time until the end of November. But once December hit, AHS announced another extension—this time until 3 January, but then changed their mind on the 29th, extending the closure until the end of January.

As January drew to a close, AHS announced on the 30th that they were extending the closure for yet another month. This marks 8 full months that this clinic is closed overnight.

AHS blamed the continued closure on “high vacancies among nursing staff” as well as their inability to find people to cover those shortages.

Boyle’s emergency department itself was also closed in June of last year, as well as for 9 hours this past April and 13 times in June 2021.


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.

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.


Nor does it include 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.


Speaking of closure extensions, AHS announced at the beginning of December that they planned to continue keeping the emergency department at the Daysland Health Centre closed overnight, Mondays through Thursdays. This was a closure originally announced in October

At the end of December, they announced their overnight closure would last throughout January and February, as well. That marks 5 months straight

This closure was a result of insufficient physician levels and began at 22:00 every night and ended at 07:00 the following morning.

Overnight closures also occurred in February and October. That October closure is the one that was extended throughout November and December.

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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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