An emergency department in central Alberta will be without an on-site physician for 16 hours because of a temporary doctor shortage linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, Alberta Health Services said on Wednesday.
In a news release, AHS said the Rocky Mountain House Health Centre emergency department closed at 3 p.m. on Wednesday to allow physicians and staff to treat and discharge patients who were there before temporarily suspending admission to the department.
“This is a temporary situation, due to COVID-19 impacting the availability of physicians across the zone who are able to provide locum coverage,” the health authority said.
“Central Alberta has a number of physicians who are impacted by COVID-19 or in isolation due to being a close contact, limiting available resources.”
The Rocky Mountain House emergency department will be without a physician from 6 p.m. on Wednesday until 7 a.m. on Thursday.
“AHS exhausted all efforts to find physician coverage during this time, locally, within Central zone, and provincially, but have not been able to find physicians to cover the ED during this time,” AHS said.
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The health authority added that it continues to work to ensure local residents still have access to the care they need and noted that inpatient units would not be affected by the closure.
“On-call coverage for obstetrical patients will continue to be available for patients who may present to the emergency department in active labour,” AHS added.
“Patients requiring urgent emergency medical care during this time are asked to call 911. Additional EMS supports will be available to transport patients who may need it.”
AHS said EMS calls in the Rocky Mountain House area will be rerouted to nearby facilities like the Sylvan Lake Advanced Ambulatory Care Centre, Rimbey Hospital and Care Centre, Sundre Hospital and Care Centre and Red Deer Regional Hospital and Care Centre.
AHS reminded residents that they may be able to access help through pharmacies or by calling HealthLink at 811 for non-emergency health questions.
“AHS is thankful for the support of surrounding health-care centres and medical staff, and would like to thank the community for their patience and understanding during this time,” the health authority said.
Rocky Mountain House is about a two-hour drive southwest of Edmonton and a two-hour drive northwest of Calgary.
Elsewhere in Alberta, the Elk Point Healthcare Centre emergency department will be without an on-site physician for a 24-hour period — until 8 a.m. on Thursday. The Fairview Health Complex emergency department was also without an on-site physician for 12 hours this week. In both of those cases, however, the COVID-19 pandemic was not cited as a reason for the doctor shortage.
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