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Physician shortages shut down ER service in 3 rural communities

The Alberta communities of Fairview, Rocky Mountain House, and Elk Point temporarily lost their emergency departments this week.

According to media releases published on the Alberta Health Services this week, 3 Alberta communities have been or currently are without full emergency department services temporarily.

Two of the communities reduced ER service overnight, and the third received a 24-hour closure.

Fairview

The first community was Fairview, about 100 kilometres north of Grande Prairie. This past Tuesday, Alberta Health Services noted on their website that the Fairview Health Complex would have no on-site physician coverage in the emergency department between 19:00 that night until 07:00 the next morning.

Nursing staff were on-site for triage and assessments, but directed patients to surrounding communities. EMS calls will also be rerouted to surrounding communities, including Grimshaw, Spirit River, Peace River, and Grande Prairie.

Rocky Mountain House

Rocky Mountain House shut down the ER at the Rocky Mountain House Health Centre as of 18:00 last night. It opened as of 07:00 this morning. It, too, lacked enough physicians to staff the department.

The media release for this notice also indicated that it was a result of COVID-19 impacting the availability of physicians across the zone who can provide locum coverage. It further stated that several physicians in the health zone have been affected by COVID-19 or are in isolation due to being a close contact.

This ER closed to patients as of 15:00 yesterday, and physicians and other staff treated and discharged patients who remained in the ER.

EMS calls will be rerouted to surrounding communities, including Sylvan Lake, Rimbey, Sundre, and Red Deer.

Rocky Mountain House is about 80 kilometres west of Red Deer.

Elk Point

Elk Point, which is about 120 kilometres northwest of Lloydminster, will have no on-site physician coverage at the Elk Point Healthcare Centre for 24 hours, starting at 08:00 this morning.

Nursing staff will be on site to provide triage and assessments, but will refer patients to surrounding communities. EMS calls will be directed to St. Paul, just west of the community.

By Kim Siever

I live in Lethbridge with my spouse and 4 of our 6 children. I’m a writer, focusing on political news, social issues, and the occasional poem. My politics are radically left.

I’m also dichotomally Mormon. And I’m a functional vegetarian: I have a blog post about that somewhere around here. My pronouns are he/him, and I’m queer.

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