Mayor: Repeated closures of Sylvan Lake health facility ‘unacceptable’

Once in 2022, the health authority specified the doctor’s illness and often notes that the discrepancy is “unexpected”.


rdnewsNOW inquired with AHS for answers, and was told a number of things, first that the reasons vary and have included different doctors.

“We are experiencing staffing challenges due to staff illness and burnout amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” AHS says.

“As we have experienced elsewhere, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, short-notice sick calls can and do happen. It is exceptionally difficult to fill these gaps on short notice given that other local doctors are already busy in their private clinics and locums have to travel. Additionally, the summer months are historically more difficult to schedule as staff and physicians take up more personal or vacation time.

Short-term and long-term solutions are underway, in addition to hiring new doctors, AHS adds.

AHS says management has met with facility teams, local physicians and locums to gather feedback and is continuing to consult with the Emergency Care Committee (UCC) and the municipality. Options discussed include changes to opening hours, service delivery or scheduling processes, although no decisions have been made.

The UCC, chaired by Susan Samson, says its position on the time change is clear.

“The Urgent Care Committee is not in favor of changing or reducing the opening hours of the Advanced Ambulatory Care Service. Patients using SLAACS need access every day, day and night. The need for medical assistance cannot be planned, says Samson. “Our region is currently underserved by physicians. The reduction in AACS hours of operation further exacerbates the need for medical care for non-life-threatening injuries in our immediate area.

Samson adds that UCC fully supports the immediate action steps outlined by AHS, particularly the review of the use of nurse practitioners to fill the physician gap.

The UCC fought hard for the SLAACS announced six years ago by the NPD.

Opposition NDP Labor critic Christina Gray said the UCP had “completely failed” the Sylvan Lakers and central Albertans, due to the fact that patients were constantly redirected to health care facilities already occupied in Red Deer and Lacombe, among others.

“The UCP’s continued attacks on healthcare workers, including doctors, nurses and paramedics, have driven many frontline professionals out of the sector, creating significant gaps in important services that people rely on. Albertans,” Gray says, noting closures in several core area communities. . “These closures put more pressure on the Red Deer Regional Hospital, which had to divert surgeries and essential services to other communities for several weeks. “Enough is enough.”

Gray says the province must ensure Albertans have access to health care where and when they need it.

rdnewsNOW contacted the Ministry of Health more than once, but received no response.


Meanwhile, Sylvan Lake Mayor Megan Hanson calls the situation unacceptable.

“It’s not great. It’s common to see a few closures during the summer, but the volume we’ve seen this summer isn’t something we’ve experienced before,” she says. “Our residents really depend on this service, to be able to get there during opening hours. The closures cause real problems for residents, as well as visitors to the city. It just wasn’t reliable.

Hanson thinks the blame ultimately lies with AHS, but notes the city has been an active partner in finding a solution. This week, city officials visited a potential new doctor across town, including taking her to a Gulls game, in the hopes she decides to stay.

Hanson points out that a local doctor who had a massive list of patients died last year, leaving a void yet to be filled.

She agrees with Samson that reducing regular hours from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. is not the solution.

SLAACS is supported, AHS explains, by physicians from two local clinics, plus eight locum (or alternate) physicians.


When asked who is responsible for preventing this in the future, AHS says these challenges are not unique to Sylvan Lake, or Alberta, and is committed to working together to improve the recruitment and retention.

“We recognize that residents are understandably worried, and AHS shares those concerns,” AHS says. “We are always working to exhaust all options to secure physician coverage, including calling for replacement coverage, adjusting schedules and temporarily modifying hours of service, before making the decision to close. temporarily. Decisions to close temporarily or operate less than normal hours are difficult. They are, however, the right and responsible thing to do when there is a gap in physician coverage.

AHS shares that two new doctors have been hired for SLAACS, one of whom started recently, while the other is expected to start in early fall. Three other positions have been approved for posting at Sylvan Lake.

Finally, AHS says it is not aware of any negative patient outcomes related to SLAACS closures.

“It would be a miracle,” adds Mayor Hanson, who would not comment on the specific cases she heard about. “That’s definitely not the impression I got.”

rdnewsNOW contacted local doctors who respectfully declined to comment.

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