HP town council worried about services offered

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

Some members of High Prairie town council are not happy with what the High Prairie Health Complex has become.

“We also have a hospital issue,” said Councillor Donna Deynaka during discussion regarding physio services at council’s April 13 meeting.

“What’s it becoming,” she added, referring to the recent closure of 10 beds.

“A Band-Aid station.”

She wanted council to pursue council’s concerns with the Alberta government.

“What’s happening to our hospital?” she asked.

“There are some major upheavals at our hospital,” said Councillor Brian Gilroy. He earlier referred to some special training nearing completion.

However, Gilroy added perhaps now was not the time. He referred to council’s recent meeting with Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro March 24 and suggested to “give him time to deal with the issues.”

Besides the physio department issue, other issues concerning council include physician recruitment, the helipad and lack of staff.

Councillor Michael Long wanted to send the letter right away saying any disruption of services may force patients to get treatment in Peace River, Grande Prairie or Edmonton.

Mayor Brian Panasiuk agreed.

“We need to be proactive. We have to make sure our hospital keeps its services.”

Council agreed to send the letter.

Deb Guerette, director of Clinical Operations for AHS North Zone Area 6 says beds were closed.

“Due to a staffing shortage, Alberta Health Services made the decision to temporarily reduce the number of acute care patient beds from 30 to 20 at the High Prairie Health Complex,” she says.

Otherwise, all existing emergency services in High Prairie remain open, and any needed patient transfers are safely managed once the patient is stable and able to be moved.

“Once staffing is stabilized, AHS will move to re-open these beds.”

Guerette says the closure is not uncommon and there is no need to worry.

And, such decisions are not taken lightly and the safety of patients and staff is at the heart of every decision.

“Temporarily reducing the number of acute care beds at a health care facility when staffing levels are low is common practice and although it may cause inconvenience it does not compromise the care patients receive.”

She assures residents there are no plans to reduce healthcare services in High Prairie.

“[The hospital] is an important facility that provides quality care and AHS wants it to be operating safely at full capacity as soon as possible.”

Hiring of staff is not as easy as it sounds.

“There are long-standing vacancy and staffing challenges in rural and remote areas, including High Prairie,” says Guerette.

“AHS is always working to address staffing needs and ensure appropriate access to health services.”

Recruitment efforts continue.

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