Categories
News

AHS closed 11 emergency departments in September

One community saw its ER closed 7 times last month for a combined 180 hours.

At the beginning of September, I reported that Alberta Health Services had cut services at hospitals in 12 communities in August, 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.

Support independent journalism

Smoky Lake

The first September closure that AHS announced was actually in 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 31st, and lasting until 08:00 in the morning of the 1st of September.

A week later, on the 6th, AHS announced a second closure for this emergency department, starting at 08:00 the following morning and lasting until 08:00 on the 8th, a total of 24 hours.

Two weeks after that, they announced a third 24-hour closure, which was scheduled to start at 08:00 on the 21st.

That’s a combined 72 hours for the entire month of September.

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.

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, July, and August.

Spirit River

Also on 31 August, AHS announced that they were also closing the emergency department at the Central Peace Health Complex in Spirit River overnight.

The closure would last 24 hours starting at 10:00 that morning, and continue into the first day of September.

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. It also lost its ER twice this past August.

Grimshaw/Berwyn

AHS made a third closure announcement at the end of August, this time for the emergency department at the Grimshaw/Berwyn and District Health Centre.

This was technically an extension, however, as this closure has been in place since 1 November of last year 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 this past August.

And with the arrival of 31 August, they released yet another extension, pushing the end of this closure out another 3 months, until the end of November.

Assuming the closure lasts that long, it will mean that the thousands of residents serviced by this hospital will have been without overnight emergency department service for over a year.

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, before the extended closure began.

Sylvan Lake

Also on the last day of August, AHS announced that they were closing the Sylvan Lake Advanced Ambulatory Care Service twice over the next week.

  • 1 September, 14:00–22:00, with service resuming 2 September at 07:30
  • 3 September, 07:30–15:00, with service resuming 15:00

A week later, AHS announced 3 more ambulatory care closures.

  • 8 September, 07:30–15:00, with service resuming at 15:00
  • 9 September, 07:30–15:00, with service resuming at 15:00
  • 12 September, 07:30–15:00, with service resuming at 15:00

On the the 15th, they announced 2 more closures, both of which would last for 8 hours and begin at 14:00 in the afternoon. The first was on the 15th and the second was on the 17th.

Just 3 days later, one more closure was announced. It was to last 8 hours and begin at 14:00 on the 18th, with service resuming the following morning at 07:30.

That’s a combined loss of 62 hours during the month of September.

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, July, and August of this year.

Vermillion

On the first day of September, AHS announced that they were closing the emergency department at the Vermilion Health Centre. The 10-hour closure was to begin at 08:00 the following morning.

Unsurprisingly, the closure was a result of not having hired enough physicians.

Nurses were on hand to provide assessment services, as well as emergency first aid, as needed, but generally, patients were to be redirected to facilities in Lloydminster, Wainwright, and Elk Point during the closure.

The community lost its ER back in July as well.

Ponoka

Also on the 1st, AHS announced a closure for the emergency department at the Ponoka Hospital and Care Centre.

The closure was to start at 17:00 on the 3rd and would last for 15 hours.

Just two days later, on the 3rd, they announced another closure for this emergency department. Both would begin at 15:00 and last until 08:00 the following morning, for a total of 17 hours.

On the 8th, they announced a third closure. Technically, it was two closures. The first closure was scheduled to begin at 22:00 that night and last 10 hours, until 08:00 the following morning, followed by another closure starting just 9 hours later and lasting for 15 hours.

AHS announced two more closures on the 27th. The first would begin at 08:00 on the 28th and last for 9 hours, and the second would last 24 hours starting at 08:00 on the 30th.

Combined, the community was without its emergency department for 90 hours in September.

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.

Ponoka lost its emergency department 4 times this past August.

Coronation

On the 6th of September, AHS announced that they were closing the emergency department at the Coronation Hospital and Care Centre.

However, the announcement was technically for 7 closures:

StartEndLength
7 September, 08:008 September, 08:0024 hours
11 September, 08:0012 September, 08:0024 hours
14 September, 08:0015 September, 12:0028 hours
18 September, 08:0019 September, 08:0024 hours
21 September, 08:0022 September, 12:0028 hours
25 September, 08:0026 September, 08:0024 hours
28 September, 08:0029 September, 12:0028 hours

That’s a combined loss of 180 hours during the month of September.

These closures were 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 AprilMayJune, and July.

Fort Macleod

Also on the 6th, AHS announced that they were closing the emergency department at the Fort Macleod Health Centre for 24 hours starting at 08:00 the following day.

This closure, like so many others, was due to AHS being able to hire enough physicians to cover the emergency department during that time.

On that note, AHS did announce the next day that they were able to find someone to cover part of the closure, so the 24-hour closure ended up being only a 6-hour closure, ending at 14:00 that afternoon.

Two weeks later, however, AHS announced on the 19th that they were closing this emergency department yet again, but for 9 hours this time. The closure was to run from 08:00 that morning until 17:00 that evening.

In both cases, EMS were to be redirected to Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge, and patients needing emergency care were instructed to go to Cardston, Lethbridge, or Pincher Creek.

Nurses were on site but only to provide care to long-term patients.

Fort Macleod was without emergency department services for 15 hours in September.

Beaverlodge

The next community to get a closure was Beaverlodge, near Grande Prairie. AHS announced on the 11th that they’d be shutting down their emergency department twice over the next week.

The first closure was to begin the following day, on the 12th, at 08:00 and last for 8 hours. The second closure would run 14 hours, beginning at 18:00 on the 15th.

A little two weeks later (on the 27th), AHS reported a third closure for Beaverlodge. It was scheduled to begin at 19:00 on the 27th and last until 07:00 the following morning.

That’s a combined 60 hours for the entire month of September.

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, July, and August.

Lac La Biche

On the 14th, AHS said that they were closing down the emergency department at the Lac La Biche – William J. Cadzow Healthcare Centre.

The 16-hour closure was supposed to begin at 16:00 the following day.

This closure 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 both July and August. Last May, Lac La Biche also lost “obstetrical and surgical services for an undetermined period”.

Rocky Mountain House

On the 22nd, AHS announced that the hospital in Rocky Mountain House would have no emergency department twice over the next week.

Both closures were to begin at 18:00 and last 13 hours, the first on the 24th and the second on the 25th. This was a combined loss of 26 hours.

This wasn’t all, however, as just a few days later, AHS announced two more closures for the community, both of which would begin at 18:00 and last 13 hours. The first started on the 29th and the second started on the 30th.

The community was without its ER for 52 hours in total throughout September.

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, July, and August, acute care beds in July 2021, and lost obstetric services in January 2022.

Milk River

The community of Milk River also received a closure notice on the 22nd, when AHS said that they were closing the emergency department at the Milk River Health Centre.

They didn’t specify when the closure took effect, other than to say it was “immediately”, and it lasted until 16:00 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, July, and August of this year.

Support independent journalism

By Kim Siever

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

One reply on “AHS closed 11 emergency departments in September”

Comment on this story

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d