Only hours before Sylvan Lake town council was to address urgent care shortcomings Alberta Health Services announced more temporary closures.
Sylvan Lake Advanced Ambulatory Care Service will be closed from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday and again for the same time period on Aug. 31.
The reason for the temporary closures is a “gap in physician coverage” as has almost always been the case in more than a dozen previous closures over the last few months.
Shortened hours at the service, which offers urgent but non-life-threatening treatment out of the town’s community health centre, have been happening more frequently.
Sylvan Lake Mayor Megan Hanson and her council are concerned, especially considering the number of closures has increased this summer, at a time when the lakeside community hosts hundreds of thousands of visitors. City officials have met with AHS to see if there are ways to get some help for the physicians working in urgent care.
Susan Samson, a past-mayor who chairs the Sylvan Lake and Area Urgent Care Committee and lobbied for years to have better health care in the community, is just as concerned.
Samson was scheduled to make a presentation to council on Thursday about ways the committee and town can work together to find ways to ensure the clinic has the doctors it needs to stay open from 7:30 a.m to 10 p.m. daily as designed.
AHS recently outlined measures it hopes to take to take some of the pressure of Sylvan Lake’s urgent care physicians.
It wants to hire three new physicians for the community, including two who are committed to working hours in Sylvan Lake Advanced Ambulatory Care Services (AACS), as well as lining up more outside Locum physicians who can fill in when needed. Bringing in nurse practitioners to assist and improving scheduling, possibly with shorter shifts, may also be considered, says AHS in an open letter to the community.
Samson and the mayor welcomed AHS’s proposal, with the exception of a proposed review of “possible changes in hours of operation during the summer months to better align with times of peak demand after hours.”
Shortening hours is a non-starter say community representatives.