A “sudden gap in physician coverage” has forced the closure of Sylvan Lake Ambulatory Care Service for the second time in a week.
The urgent care centre will be closed from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Wednesday, and will reopen at 7:30 a.m. Thursday.
“This is a temporary measure taken as a last resort, as all avenues to secure physician coverage have been exhausted,” said Alberta Health Services (AHS) in a statement released on Wednesday morning.
The health facility was temporarily closed last Thursday due to a similar gap in physician coverage. The centre was closed from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., at which time it was expected reopen to patients until 10 p.m. Normal hours of 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. resumed Friday.
Sylvan Lake Mayor Megan Hanson said it’s always a concern any time hours are shortened at the health facility.
While the town has no direct control over the facility, AHS keeps the municipality in the loop and the town shared information on alternatives for residents seeking care on social media on Wednesday.
“The tough part is we also recognize that this is happening everywhere,” said Hanson. “It’s not just our centre. Every one of our neighbours is getting the same notices that we’re seeing.”
AHS facilities are not the only ones facing staffing issues. Town facilities and businesses, such as local grocery stores, have also had to deal with staff shortages during the pandemic.
“I think it’s an everywhere thing. Everyone is just stretched to the max, which is really unfortunate when it comes to coverage (at the urgent care centre).”
Hanson is hopeful that the staffing shortages do not get worse.
“I try to be optimistic that these are one-off situations. We’ve certainly seen a few more in the last month or so and I hope that trend does not continue.
“Hopefully, this is near the end. We really do want to count on that service during certain hours and I know a lot of people count on it.”
The care centre was also closed for part of Christmas Day. Patients were not accepted after 2 p.m. to allow the doctors and nurses to treat those already there.
AHS said on Wednesday that “patients arriving at the urgent care centre outside the hours of operation will be redirected to other care options as appropriate.
“These options include booking an appointment with their family doctor, or calling Health Link at 811 for medical information and advice.”
AHS says patients can also get medical care in facilities in nearby communities, including Rocky Mountain House and Red Deer.
Scheduled appointments with other health services – such as Public Health, laboratory and Addiction and Mental Health – at the Sylvan Lake Community Health Centre are not impacted by the temporary change in hours.
Sylvan Lake Advanced Ambulatory Care Service offers diagnosis and treatment of urgent, but non-life-threatening conditions, seven days a week. These include sudden illness or injury that could be cared for in a doctor’s office but requires immediate attention.
Patients requiring emergency medical care should call 911.
In mid-August, the centre ran on shortened hours from Friday through Monday because of staffing issues.