Councillor says region in ‘crisis’

AHS announces temporary closure of McLennan Emergency Department

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

The shortage of doctors in the Smoky River region continues.

On March 11, Alberta Health Services announced the temporary closure of the McLennan Sacred Heart Community Health Centre Emergency Department from Friday, March 12 at 7 a.m. to Monday, March 15 at 7 a.m.

The closure was prompted due to the facility being without an on-site physician.

“This is a temporary measure and AHS is working hard to ensure local residents continue to have access to the care they need during this time,” reads a news release issued by AHS before the closure.

Nursing staff remained on-site in providing care for inpatients, with one local physician in the community.

Patients were asked to call 911 if they have a medical emergency.

Meanwhile, EMS calls were rerouted to the High Prairie Health Complex.

Ironically, the physician shortage in the Smoky River region made its way onto the agenda at both the Town of McLennan and M.D. of Smoky River council meetings last week.

“We’re in a crisis,” said McLennan Councillor Sue Delaurier at their meeting March 8.

Council said the stats show McLennan should be served by five physicians but will only have the equivalent of 2 1/2 in the near future.

“Doctors are stretched to the limit,” said Councillor Dwayne Stout.

He added it was difficult to compete with neighbouring municipalities [M.D. of Opportunity] to attract doctors who offer extra money, houses and vehicles.

Less rich municipalities like McLennan cannot afford to offer such perks.

The matter also arose at the M.D.’s meeting March 10 when council was asked to complete the Northern Alberta Elected Leaders survey regarding health services.

Realizing the critical need for physicians in the region, the M.D. rated the need for family doctors and the need for family physicians as their top priorities in response to two different questions.

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