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No on-site physician coverage for 48 hours at Northern Alberta health centre

NDP labour critic calls on provincial government to address disruptions at more than 30 healthcare centres across the province.
Barrhead HC Centre Aug 2022 (VM)
Alberta Health Services issued a release on Aug. 11 stating that there will be no on-site physician coverage in the Barrhead Healthcare Centre Emergency Department from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. on Aug. 12-13, Aug. 14-15, Aug. 16-17 and Aug. 17-18.

BARRHEAD — The Barrhead Healthcare Centre Emergency Department (ED) will be temporarily without on-site physician coverage during four 12-hour periods over the next week. 

Alberta Health Services (AHS) issued a release earlier today indicating that there will be no physicians available to staff the ED during the following times:

-7 p.m. Aug. 12 to 7 a.m. Aug. 13

-7 p.m. Aug. 14 to 7 a.m. Aug. 15

-7 p.m. Aug. 16 to 7 a.m. Aug. 17

-7 p.m. Aug. 17 to 7 a.m. Aug. 18

During these four 12-hour periods, nursing staff will remain on site in the ED providing urgent triage, assessments and referrals for patients in alternate emergency departments in neighbouring communities. 

Patients are asked to call 9-1-1 if they have a medical emergency. EMS (Emergency Medical Services) will be re-routed to the Westlock Healthcare Centre or the Whitecourt Healthcare Centre. 

Depending on their needs, patients seeking care at the ED in Barrhead may also be made aware of services available through local pharmacies. 

Also, residents can always call Health Link at 8-1-1 if they have non-emergency health-related questions. 

The release stresses that this is a temporary measure and AHS is working hard to ensure local residents continues to have access to the care they need during this time. 

“We are thankful for the support of surrounding healthcare centres and medical staff and would like thank the community for their patience and understanding during this time,” the release states. 

NDP criticism 

During a press conference on Aug. 10, Edmonton-Millwoods MLA Christina Gray — who also serves as the NDP Labour Critic — called on the province to take action as disruptions in care occurred at more than two dozen communities across the province. 

Gray presented a map showing 32 communities with health care reductions across the province, highlighting Barrhead, Boyle and Swan Hills. 

Though there was no issue the day of the press conference, Barrhead has been hit with disruptions to emergency care a number of times over the past nine months due to a lack of physicians. 

Due to a lack of nursing staff, the Boyle Healthcare Centre has been operating on reduced hours since the start of July, closing overnight from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. Originally, these temporary hours were only supposed to last until Aug. 1, but they were recently extended to Sept. 1. 

Likewise, the Swan Hills Healthcare Centre has been operating on reduced hours since June 9, closing overnight from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. These temporary hours have been extended to Aug. 31. 

Gray blamed the disruptions of care on the United Conservative Party’s (UCP) “attack on health care professionals" before and during the pandemic. 

“They tore up contracts and threatened workers ... They chased family doctors out of the province, leaving hundreds of thousands of Albertans with nowhere to go except to go to except for emergency rooms,” she said. 

Gray added that no one in the UCP leadership race is currently talking about the staffing shortages in Alberta health care facilities despite communities in their own ridings being affected. 

“We keep hearing leadership contestants talk about looking to other countries or re-organizing the health care system,” she said. “We need a real plan today, on the ground, not more chaos and re-organization.” 

For more on this story, see the upcoming Aug. 16 edition of the Town & Country This Week.

Kevin Berger,

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