A lack of available physicians in Drayton Valley led to the temporary closure of the Emergency Department at the Drayton Valley Hospital on April 16.

Heather Kipling, the communications director for the central zone of Alberta Health Services, released a statement on April 16 to the community regarding the closure.

“On behalf of the local Alberta Health Services leadership team, I wish to share for awareness that the Emergency Department (ED) at the Drayton Valley Hospital and Care Centre will temporarily close overnight beginning at 4 p.m. today due to an unexpected gap in physician coverage. The ED will reopen at 8 a.m. tomorrow morning and resume full operation at that time,” says Kipling in the press release.

Kipling went on to explain that while it had seemed there was a proper 24 hour coverage for that time, some physicians were unable to extend their shifts which left the emergency department without a doctor for several hours. 

In an email interview, AHS says that the challenges of recruiting physicians is something that goes beyond the province. They say that recruitment is a struggle both nationally and internationally at this time.

For smaller communities, this means emergency departments are always at risk. 

“As many rural Emergency Departments have just one physician or locum on shift at a time, and cannot operate without the presence of a physician, any disruption to the physician’s schedule – whether due to sudden illness, vacation, poor weather for travel, or other – can make the difference between the ED being open or closed,” they say.

AHS stresses that doctors in rural communities often have many responsibilities on their plate and it can be difficult to find the time for a shift in the emergency department.

“Physicians hired by AHS in rural communities typically work in a medical practice in addition to being privileged to work at hospital, with regular shifts in the ED,” they say.

In Kipling’s statement, she indicated that while AHS had not been able to find a physician to cover the gap, they continually looked for someone to reduce the closure time.

For the evening of the 16th and the morning of the 17th, the nursing staff remained on site to assess patients and then redirect them to another hospital. EMS staff were also present and ready to transport patients if necessary.

Right now, AHS says they are aggressively pursuing Canadian and international physicians to help fill the gaps in coverage across the province. They are also working with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta to expedite the assessment and licensing of international medical students, and expanding their marketing efforts.

Last week’s closure is the second temporary closure the Drayton Valley Hospital has had in the past two years.

By Amanda Jeffery, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 25, 2024 at 12:12

This item reprinted with permission from   Free Press   Drayton Valley, Alberta

Comments are Welcome - Use the 'Join the Discussion' above any replies, or 'TheRegional / Chat' below replies. Both links take you to the same place. You will be asked to become a registered user if you are not one already - Posts are moderated