Sylvan Lake’s urgent care centre had to close on short notice on Tuesday because a doctor is sick.
Alberta Health Services (AHS) sent out a notice shortly after 1 p.m. that the Sylvan Lake Advanced Ambulatory Care Service will be without a physician from 3 p.m. until its normal 10 p.m. closing time.
No new patients were admitted after 1:15 p.m. to allow the physician and staff to treat and discharge those already there.
This is at least the sixth time since Christmas the care facility has had to temporarily close because of staffing issues. The last time was on March 1, when it was announced the centre could not take patients from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“We feel the concern, that is for sure,” said Sylvan Lake Mayor Megan Hanson. “It’s certainly something that’s on our radar.
“It’s not great for our residents. They need a dependable place to go during the hours where they are expecting to go there and having them be redirected certainly isn’t ideal.
“It is not doing a service to our residents when they anticipate it will be open and it is not.”
The facility is supposed to be open from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. It offers diagnosis and treatment of urgent, but non-life-threatening conditions. These include sudden illness or injury that could be cared for in a doctor’s office but requires immediate attention.
The inconvenience of the closures — often on short notice — have not been lost on residents. Hanson said each time there is a closure in Sylvan Lake, or at other facilities in the area, social media tags and posts follow.
“I do hear the rumblings of it, for sure.”
Hanson said it is an issue that town council will be discussing soon. “We will certainly have to have a discussion on what our options are.”
Council will be taking a look at its strategic plan next week and the care centre’s future is certain to be part of that discussion, she added.
Finding a solution to the physician shortages that are causing the shutdowns is complicated by the fact is it is not just a Sylvan Lake issue. Other health care facilities serving smaller communities are experiencing the same issues.
“The tough thing is because we’re seeing it everywhere — it’s not just centred on our facility — it’s a little bit tougher to come up with a plan of action for it,” she said.
“I do wonder if some regional work needs to be done on this.”
Hanson said it is an issue that must be resolved.
“We were excited to get the ambulatory service in town. We certainly want to be able to hold up to every hour we were committed to.”
As in previous closures, the AHS described them as “temporary measures taken as a last resort.”
Patients arriving at the care centre were advised of their options, including going to another facility, returning on Wednesday, booking an appointment with a family doctor or calling Health Link at 811 for medical information and advice.
Scheduled appointments with other health services – like Public Health, laboratory and Addiction and Mental Health –at the Sylvan Lake Community Health Centre are not impacted by the temporary closure.