Alberta town loses ER service 2 days a week for 6 months

This emergency department has had its hours reduced every week for months.

Last week, Alberta Health Services announced that they were extending a temporary closure of the emergency department at the Elk Point Healthcare Centre until the end of November.

For the rest of the month, the town’s emergency department will be closed every week for two 24-hours periods, beginning at 8:00 a.m. on Tuesdays and 8:00 a.m. on Thursdays.

This is a direct result of not having enough physicians available.

Nursing staff will be available in the department, but will provide only triage and and assessing services. Any EMS calls on these days will be rerouted the emergency department in St. Paul, which is 35 kilometres away.

This is the second such extension in the same number of months, with AHS announcing a similar extension at the beginning of October which would last until the end of last month. However, even the October announcement wasn’t the original closure.

At the end of May, AHS had declared similar closures, effective 1 June and lasting until “further notice”.

At that time, AHS had indicated that they had recruited two new physicians, who were working through the certification process. On 21 October, they had reported at least one new physician, who would be working as a family physician but would also cover shifts in the ER. No date was given for when she would actually start, however.

The indefinite Tuesday and Thursday closures announced at the end of May weren’t the start of the closures for Elk Point’s emergency department.

AHS announced just a few days before that a one-time, 24-hour closure starting 27 May, as well as a similar closure the week before, on 20 May, and one on 13 May.

Even then, the weekly closures in May weren’t the very beginning, with AHS having announced a 24-hour closure starting 28 January.

There were no emergency department closures announced for Elk Point prior to 2021.

Elk Point is a town of about 1,500 people and is located roughly 220 kilometres east of Edmonton and 120 kilometres northwest of Lloydminster.

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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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