Emergency department in Swan Hills, Alta., to be closed Saturday night: AHS

The operations of two rural Alberta emergency departments are being affected, in part because locum coverage could not be secured, according to news releases Alberta Health Services (AHS) issued Friday.

The Swan Hills Healthcare Centre emergency department will be closed to patients from 7 p.m. Saturday to 7 a.m. Sunday, due to nurse vacancies and an inability to secure locum coverage, a news release said.

Locum supplies physicians with malpractice insurance, and pays an hourly rate for their assignment and travel expenses to Swan Hills, Alta., a town about 180 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.

Anyone who has a medical emergency overnight Saturday is asked to call 911. Paramedics will be re-routed to the Westlock Healthcare, Whitecourt Healthcare or Slave Lake Healthcare centres.

The closest of those to Swan Hills is the Whitecourt Healthcare Centre, at a distance of about 80 kilometres.

Meanwhile, the emergency department in Consort, Alta., a village about 250 kilometres southeast of Edmonton, will only be open Wednesdays and Thursdays for about a month, a separate news release said.

“Alternative locum coverage” couldn’t be secured, resulting in gaps of physician coverage at the Consort Hospital and Care Centre emergency department from May 9 to June 6.

AHS, as a last resort, chose close the emergency department on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays during that period, the release said.

Services will be offered Wednesdays and Thursdays during normal hours, the release said. The emergency department is closed evenings and weekends.

Long-term care and community support beds will not be impacted, the release noted.

Nurses will still be in the emergency department to assess patients who show up; phone consults with the on-call physician at the Coronation Hospital and Care Centre emergency department will be available as needed, the release said.

Patients could be referred to other emergency departments or health-care facilities, if needed, the release added.

Paramedics will be called if emergency care is required and they’re prepared to transport patients, to surrounding facilities if needed.

AHS is reminding residents in Swan Hills and Consort to call Health Link at 811 for non-emergency health questions.

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