AHS closed 11 emergency departments in August

One community saw its ER closed 11 times last month for a combined 242 hours.

At the beginning of August, I reported that Alberta Health Services had cut services at hospitals in 13 communities in July, 11 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

The first closure was announced on the 1st, when AHS said that they were closing down the emergency department at the Lac La Biche – William J. Cadzow Healthcare Centre.

They technically announced three closures. The first was. a 24-hour closure beginning at 08:00 the following day, followed by an 18-hour closure starting at 14:00 on the 5th, and another 24-hour closure effective as of 08:00 on the 8th.

Ten days later, they announced a second ER closure for this community, or rather two more closures. Both closures were scheduled to begin at 16:00, the first on the 14th and the second on the 17th, and would each last 40 hours. That’s a combined 80 hours.

AHS announced two more closures on the 21st. These were to last for 16 hours each and would begin at 16:00, first on the 22nd and then on the 23rd.

Finally, a few days later, they announced four more 16-hour closures. Each was to begin at 16:00, on the 25th , the 26th, the 28th, and the 31st.

That’s combined loss of 242 hours during the entire month of August.

All of the closures were a result of the AHS’s “inability to secure physician coverage”.

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 in both past March and April, three times this past May, twice this past June, and five times in July. Last May, Lac La Biche also lost “obstetrical and surgical services for an undetermined period”.


The next community to get a closure was Beaverlodge, near Grande Prairie. AHS announced on the 2nd that they’d be shutting down their emergency department between 20:00 that evening and 08:00 the next morning.

A little over a week later (on the 11th), AHS reported 3 more 12-hour closures for Beaverlodge on the 11th, 12th, and 13th. Each closure would begin at 20:00 and last until 08:00 the following morning.

That’s a combined 48 hours for the entire month of August.

As with the Lac La Biche closures, these closures were a result of AHS’s inability to hire enough doctors. Nurses wer on hand for triage and assessment.

Beaverlodge’s emergency department saw closures last MayJulyAugustNovember, and December, too, as well as this past January, March, May, and July.

Spirit River

On 3 August, AHS announced that they were also closing the emergency department at the Central Peace Health Complex in Spirit River. The closure would last 9.5 hours starting at 12:30 that afternoon.

This closure were a result of AHS not having enough nursing staff in Spirit River.

There were no medical staff available in the emergency department; although nurses were working in acute care at the hospital.

Spirit River also lost its emergency department for 24 hours in August 2021 and also experienced closure last AprilJune, and December.


Also on the 3rd, AHS announced two closures for the emergency department at the Ponoka Hospital and Care Centre.

The first closure was to start at 08:00 the following morning and would last for 9 hours. The second would begin at 17:00 on the 6th and last until 08:00 the following morning, a total of 15 hours.

Combined, the community was without their emergency departments of 24 hours.

A couple of weeks later, on the 17th, they announced two more closure for this emergency department. Both would begin at 08:00—on the 18th and the 21st—and last for 9 hours each.

As expected, the closures were a result of the AHS not hiring enough physicians to provide adequate coverage in this emergency department.

EMS calls in Ponoka were to be re-routed to facilities in Wetaskiwin, Lacombe, or Red Deer.

This isn’t the first time that Ponoka has lost its emergency department either. It was closed down for part of one day last AprilAugust, and September, as well as this past March, June, and July.

Smoky Lake

AHS announced another closure on 4 August, when they said that they were closing down the emergency department at the George McDougall Healthcare Centre in Smoky Lake.

This was supposed to be a 24-hour closure beginning at 08:00 on the 10th.

A week later, on the 11th, AHS announced a second closure for this emergency department, starting at 16:00 that evening and lasting until 08:00 on the 14th, a total of 64 hours.

After only 5 days, they announced a third 24-hour closure, which was scheduled to start at 08:00 on the 17th.

Less than a week later, on the 23rd, AHS announced another 24-hour closure, this one starting the next day at 08:00.

Finally, a week later, they announced yet another 24-hour closure, which was scheduled to begin at 08:00 on the 31st.

That’s a combined 160 hours for the entire month of August.

Like so many others, these closures were 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 and July of this year.

Milk River

The community of Milk River also received a closure notice on the 4th., when AHS said that they were closing the emergency department at the Milk River Health Centre.

Their emergency department that day until 17:00 that evening.

This closure was due to insufficient staffing levels of physicians.

Nursing staff were on-site to provide care for long-term care residents, and EMS were redirected to Raymond or Lethbridge.

Milk River also lost their ER in FebruaryMaySeptemberOctober, and December of last year, as well as JanuaryFebruary, May, and July of this year.

Rocky Mountain House

On the 8th, AHS announced that the hospital in Rocky Mountain House would have no emergency department for 13 hours, beginning at 18:00 that evening.

Like so many others, these closures were “due to gaps in physician coverage”.

The community lost their emergency department for brief periods in May 2021 and this past June and July, acute care beds in July 2021, and lost obstetric services in January 2022.

Sylvan Lake

Also on the 8th, AHS announced on the 12th that they were closing the Sylvan Lake Advanced Ambulatory Care Service twice over the next week.

  • 9 August, 14:00–22:00, with service resuming 10 August at 07:30
  • 11 August, 14:00–22:00, with service resuming 12 August at 07:30

Three days later, AHS announced two more ambulatory care closures.

  • 13 August, 07:30–15:00, with service resuming at 15:00
  • 14 August, 07:30–22:00 (full day closure), with service resuming 15 August at 07:30

On the the 15th, they announced 3 more closures:

  • 16 August, 14:00–22:00, with service resuming on 17 August at 07:30
  • 17 August, 14:00–22:00, with service resuming on 18 August at 07:30
  • 18 August, 14:00–22:00, with service resuming on 19 August at 07:30

Just 3 days later, one more closure was announced. It was to last 8 hours and begin at 14:00 on the 20th, with service resuming the following morning at 07:30.

Another closure was announced on the 24th, which saw ambulatory care unavailable until 15:00 that afternoon.

9 August, 14:009 August, 22:008 hours
11 August, 14:0011 August, 22:008 hours
13 August, 07:3013 August, 15:007.5 hours
14 August, 07:3014 August, 22:0014.5 hours
16 August, 14:0016 August, 22:008 hours
17 August, 14:0017 August, 22:008 hours
18 August, 14:0018 August, 22:008 hours
20 August, 14:0020 August, 22:008 hours
24 August, 07:3024 August, 15:007.5 hours

That’s a combined loss of 78 hours during the month of August.

Keep in mind, that ambulatory care service is available at the Sylvan Lake Community Health Centre between 07:30 and 22:00 under normal circumstances. It is typically not a 24-hour service.

The closures were 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, May, June, and July of this year.


Another announcement on the 11th had AHS saying that they were closing the emergency department at the Boyle Healthcare Centre for nearly a week.

The closure was scheduled to begin at 09:00 on the 14th and last until 20:00 on the 20th, a total of 155 hours.

Unsurprisingly, this closure was aresult of an insufficnet number of physicians on staff at this hospital. Nurses were on had for traige and assessment.

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.

Now, this is in addition to a closure announced last July, when AHS said they were extending a closure of the entire hospital 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 last 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 of this year, but then changed their mind on the 29th, extending the closure until the end of January.

As January drew to a close, AHS announced that they were extending the closure for yet another month. Then they announced another extension at the end of February, but this time, they didn’t provide an end date for the closure.

I haven’t been able to find an announcement indicating a return to regular operating our, so it looks like the hospital has been without overnight service for over a year.

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


AHS published an update back in 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 last 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.

That May update had extended the closure until 5 July. However, when the extension deadline arrived, AHS once again announced a closure extension. This time, the closure was for just one month, until 2 August.

However, just two three weeks later, on the 27th, AHS announced they were tacking an extra two weeks onto that extension, making it last until 15 August.

As was the case with previous extensions, when the 15th arrived, AHS announced another extension. This time, however, there is no set date when they expect the emergency department to reopen.

It has now been over a year that this community has been without an emergency department.

As was the case last August, the multi-month closures have all been a result of “sustained and significant shortages among nursing staff”.

Patients needing emergency or acute care services were to be redirected to facilities in Coronation, Castor, or Provost as needed.

Consort lost emergency department services in June, August, September, and December of last year, as well every month of 2023 so far.

Swan Hills

On the 17th, AHS announced that the entire Swan Hills Healthcare Centre would be closed for 12 days: from 07:00 that morning until 07:00 on the 29th.

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.

This closure is in addition to another ongoing temporary closure at this ER, which began in June and had it closed 12 hours every night, beginning at 19:00, as a result of not enough nurses on staff.

However, on the 22nd, AHS announced that they were lifting the overnight closure, and the emergency department would be running as normal for the 22nd through to the 29th,. As a result, the closure announced on the 17th lasted for only 5 days.

Swan Hills also lost ER service in JanuaryFebruaryMayJuly, and December of last year, as well as June of this year.

Rocky Mountain House

On the 21st, AHS announced that the hospital in Rocky Mountain House would have no emergency department services for two periods.

The first closure would last for 13 hours, between 18:00 on 22 August and 07:00 on the 23rd. the second closure would be the same period, starting at 18:00 on the 23rd.

AHS blamed “gaps in physician coverage” for the closure.

Nurses were on site to assess patients, as well as provide first aid, if necessary. Patients who needed other emergency services were referred to facilities in Sundre, Rimbey, Sylvan Lake, or Red Deer.

The community lost their emergency department for brief periods in May 2021 and June 2023. They also closed acute care beds in July 2021 and obstetric services in January 2022.

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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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