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Partial closure of Alberta hospital prompts chief to resume requires higher nurse recruitment, retention

The chief of Bigstone Cree Nation is asking Alberta Well being Providers and the province to revive in a single day service on the Wabasca-Desmarais Well being Care Middle and do extra to recruit and retain nurses in the neighborhood.

AHS introduced on Wednesday that the middle might be closed in a single day, from 7:30 pm to 7:30 am, till June 21, due to a scarcity of registered and licensed sensible nurses.

“The change is short-term and we’re devoted to returning to regular working hours as quickly as potential,” mentioned Stacy Greening, chief zone officer with AHS North Zone, in a press launch.

Bigstone Cree Nation Chief Silas Yellowknee mentioned closing the emergency division at night time for practically two weeks is “not acceptable” as a result of well being care is a treaty proper.

He mentioned there are greater than 3,500 nation members residing on and off-reserve that depend on the well being centre. It’s situated within the hamlet of Wabasca-Desmarais, about 325 kilometers north of Edmonton.

“We have misplaced a couple of younger folks now resulting from suicide, so that is actually going to take a toll on my folks as properly, and my neighborhood as an entire, as a result of the place are you going to go?” he mentioned Thursday in an interview with CBC Information.

Yellowknee mentioned he and the reeve of the native municipal district hope to fulfill with AHS officers concerning the emergency division closure on Friday.

AHS spokesperson Gayleen Froese mentioned in an e mail that in the course of the closure, EMS calls might be re-routed to Slave Lake, Athabasca and Excessive Prairie.

Slave Lake is the closest of the three communities, about 124 kilometers away from Wabasca-Desmarais.

“I’ve acquired to place my hope in them that no person dies throughout transport,” Yellowknee mentioned.

This isn’t the primary time the hospital has been short-staffed.

Based on AHS information releases, there have been six short-term intervals of no doctor protection up to now 5 months, most not too long ago in Could.

The Wabasca-Desmarais Well being Care Middle’s emergency division might be closed in a single day till June 21. Through the closure, sufferers might be delivered to amenities in Slave Lake, Athabasca and Excessive Prairie. (Submitted by Silas Yellowknee)

Yellowknee mentioned many nurses working in the neighborhood burned out in the course of the pandemic and two got here out of retirement to assist fight the scarcity.

He mentioned he has raised considerations concerning the scarcity of medical workers with Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson up to now and urged AHS to extend the compensation and incentives for medical doctors and nurses who work in the neighborhood.

Cameron Westhead, second vp with the United Nurses of Alberta, mentioned workers shortages have been inflicting closures and repair reductions at healthcare amenities throughout the province, however particularly in rural areas.

He mentioned many elements are behind the nurse scarcity, together with pandemic burnout, not sufficient nursing graduates, folks leaving to work in different jurisdictions and early retirements.

Nurses who’re nonetheless working are being informed to work extra time and denied private go away days, he mentioned, and he has heard tales of nurses who have been unreachable by cellphone “being chased down in grocery shops” and informed to go to work.

“It is simply this horrible circumstances the place all over the place you flip, health-care staff are usually not feeling valued, they’re feeling overworked they usually’re in search of an escape route,” he mentioned.

In its information launch, AHS mentioned recruiting nurses is a problem throughout North America and may be significantly troublesome outdoors cities.

AHS says its recruitment group is aggressively pursuing each Canadian and internationally educated professionals, working to assist versatile roles and consulting with faculties to permit work expertise in rural amenities.

Well being Minister Jason Copping acknowledged that the health-care system continues to be strained, regardless of declining COVID-19 hospitalizations.

He mentioned AHS has 800 extra workers working in emergency departments than earlier than the pandemic and the federal government “will preserve including capability proper throughout the system.”