Chris Clegg
South Peace News

The physio department at the High Prairie Health Complex is not closing, despite the worst case of scenarios presented by the rumour mill last week.

Instead, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the level of service was temporarily affected.

Deb Guerette, Alberta Health Services director of clinical operations for the area including High Prairie, explains.

“At its peak, pandemic measures did see High Prairie and other physiotherapy departments temporarily utilizing virtual health service delivery to continue to see clients and meet their care needs,” she says.

“We have since resumed in-person physiotherapy services in High Prairie, although virtual services are still available if clients would prefer.”

Rumours were swirling last week that big changes were coming to the physio department. The Town of High Prairie and Big Lakes County councils had a chance to ask Alberta Minister of Health Tyler Shandro if it was true the department was closing during a short visit March 24.

“Yes, we bring up the rumour of the physio department closing and [Shandro] knew nothing about it,” says Mayor Brian Panasiuk.

Turns out it was because it was not true.

Reeve Ken Matthews heard physio was not closing, but limiting its services to ‘in patients’.

“Everyone else will have to travel for physio,” said Panasiuk.

It concerned Panasiuk because it would result in a further reduction of services at the hospital.

“We need to find out for sure what is happening and lobby to stop it.”

Matthews agreed, saying it would be difficult for many people to travel at least 100 km to get physiotherapy, especially after a hip or knee replacement.

For his part, Shandro promised to look into the matter.

Guerette says decisions regarding the department during the pandemic are made by the AHS North Zone Emergency Operations Centre.

“. . .about how to safely provide care and deliver services to patients and clients. These decisions are made in conjunction with area leadership and the provincial AHS Emergency Operations Centre,” she says.

AHS physio staff provide services to clients of all ages in a variety of settings including acute care, continuing care and outpatients.

Services are prioritized according to resources available and clients’ assessed, clinical needs at a particular time.

The pandemic has resulted in every precaution being taken to protect patients and staff.

“Pandemic and outbreak related precautions have at times impacted physiotherapy service capacity, including our ability to se more patients in person,” says Guerette.

Clients are then given priority due to individual needs.

March 29, Guerette said “outpatient physiotherapy in High Prairie is gradually returning to in-person services, with up to 30 clients a day currently being serviced.”

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