ROCKY MEDICAL PULSE First Issue May 20, 2024

Why is the ER closed but the Clinic is open?

Sometimes, due to physician shortage, the ER will be closed but the clinic will remain open. This is because not all physicians work in the Emergency Department at the Hospital. In our community, we have what we call clinic-only physicians which are physicians who strictly work in the clinic only. We also have physicians that work in clinic and in Acute Care or Obstetrics but do not work in the Emergency Department. We also have physicians that are specialists meaning they are specialized in one or two areas such as Obstetrics and Gynecology and they do not work in the Emergency Department.

Don’t we have lots of physicians in our community? Isn’t there enough to cover all the shifts?

We are very blessed to have 17 physicians working in our community that bring different skill sets to their practices. Of these 17 physicians, 12 are skilled for the Emergency Department. Aside from Emergency Department, these physicians also work to cover other departments such as Acute Care which is all patients that are admitted to hospital, Surgery, Anesthesia, Obstetrics, Indigenous Health in 3 First Nation Communities, Wound Care, Long-term Care and Supportive Living which are the residents of Park Avenue and Clearwater Centre, and Family Medicine. As important as having the Emergency Department open is the need for primary care in the clinic where patients can receive the prescription refills, follow-up, and investigations for new symptoms and ailments.

How often was the ER closed in 2023?

Of the 730 shifts in the ER to be covered in 2023, the Emergency Department was closed less than 2% of the time at 11 shift closures for the full year. When the ER closes, it can feel like it happens a lot and is catastrophic. 11 times out of 730 is more than we would like to see which is why recruitment is so important. With more physicians we will reduce the number of closures.

Will there be ER closures this summer?

Realistically, yes, there will likely be ER closures this summer. We do our best and start almost a year in advance to recruit locum physicians to come to your community to help work in the clinic and hospital. As you may have heard, there is a shortage of family medicine physicians across the province and nation. There are a number of communities that have experienced ER closures, and our situation is not unique. We continue to recruit physicians in a high demand low supply market. In coordination with AHS, will do our best to give you as much notice as possible when the ER is closed. Sometimes it may only be a few hours as AHS tries up to the very last minute to find coverage

What if I need to go to the ER when it is closed?

If you need Emergency Care, call 911 and they will take you to the nearest open ER. The EMS teams are aware of when the ER is closed and need to redirect patients to other facilities.