Due to an unexpected gap in physician coverage, the Ponoka Hospital and Care Centre emergency department (ED) was closed for part of the day on April 8.
Patients requiring emergency medical care during that time were asked to call 911. EMS calls were re-routed to surrounding facilities, including the Wetaskiwin Hospital and Care Centre, Lacombe Hospital and Care Centre and Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.
The Ponoka hospital emergency department closed overnight a couple of weeks ago, from 5 p.m. on March 22 to 8 a.m. on March 23. The ED nearly closed on Feb. 25 as well, due to physician illness, but at the last minute, a doctor agreed to work a longer shift.
Ponoka physician Dr. Gregory Sawisky had warned earlier in March that pressure on the hospital was likely to continue, as physician recruitment and retainment has been an ongoing issue.
On April 8, patients presenting to the ED were seen by staff and referred to emergency departments in surrounding communities as needed, or to the local medical clinic for follow up with a family physician depending on their needs.
“This is a temporary measure taken as a last resort. All efforts to secure alternative coverage on short notice have been exhausted,” said Alberta Health Services in a press release.
“AHS is working hard to ensure local residents continue to have access to the care they need during this time, and to keep all other services at the site operating as normal.”
Inpatient units were not impacted by this closure.