Falher wants McLennan hospital beds opened

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Closing several acute-care beds at the hospital in McLennan until early September has prompted Town of Falher council to send a letter to the health minister.

At its regular meeting Aug. 9, council approved a motion to send a letter to Health Minister Tyler Shandro to share concerns about five acute-care beds closed at Sacred Heart Community Health Centre from Aug. 5 to Sept. 7.

“That is a big concern,” Buchinski says as she brought the issue to the table.

“We need to send our concerns to the minister.”

She says the issue is a big concern.

“Five beds is huge,” Buchinski says. This is the first time we hear about closing beds.”

Alberta Health Services says it’s caused by a staffing shortage, she confirmed.

“This is not a doctor issue,” Buchinski says.

However, 15 acute- care beds remain open, AHS says in a public service announcement issued Aug. 5.

That will not affect patient care as the site has sufficient capacity.

Currently, the hospital has eight admitted patients with space for additional patients as needed.

AHS will reopen the five closed beds before Sept. 7 if the staffing issue is resolved earlier than expected.

The mayor is concerned about the issue during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is not the time to close beds,” Buchinski says.

“They probably know a week ahead that there will be bed closures.”

Copies of the letter to the health minister will also be sent to Premier Jason Kenney.

No other service disruptions at the site are currently in place.

All existing emergency services will remain open, AHS states in the announcement.

“We thank the community for its understanding during this time,” the announcement says.

Resources are often adjusted to align with staffing levels, especially in summer when workforce levels are lower due to staff and physician vacations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also had an impact through staff redeployment and a depletion of the available pool of casual staff, a situation that’s affecting other health systems across Canada.

The temporary measure ensures patients at the Sacred Heart Community Health Centre continue to receive safe, high-quality care.

AHS continues to look for solutions to address staffing needs, and will keep the community updated about ongoing local recruitment efforts.

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