Calgary

Physician gap forces Airdrie urgent care centre to limit weekend hours

The urgent care department at the Airdrie Community Health Centre will be closed overnight on Friday, Saturday and Sunday for approximately two months "due to gaps in physician coverage."  

Centre will be closed Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings for roughly 8 weeks

Alberta Health Services says there aren't enough doctors to cover weekend evening shifts in Airdrie, but the closures are temporary and a last resort. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

The urgent care department at the Airdrie Community Health Centre will close from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for approximately the next eight weeks.   

Alberta Health Services (AHS) said in a release Thursday that there aren't enough doctors to cover the shifts but the closures are temporary and a last resort.   

New patients won't be admitted to urgent care after 8 p.m. on those nights.   

Patients admitted earlier will be treated and discharged. Nursing staff will remain in the centre overnight to assess and triage any walk-ins who show up during the closures.   

AHS said it is working to make sure residents have access to the care they need — and that all other services at the site continue to operate as usual.   

Patients needing emergency care during these closures are asked to call 911.   

EMS will be rerouted to nearby facilities, including the Peter Lougheed Centre, Foothills Medical Centre and Alberta Children's Hospital — all in north Caglary — and the Didsbury District Health Centre.

Those with less urgent needs may be referred to local medical clinics for walk-in appointments Monday morning. 

Airdrie's urgent care centre will resume 24-hour operations at 7 a.m. on Mondays.

It's not the first time AHS has had to limit hours at the urgent care department in Airdrie due to a gap in physician coverage. It saw temporary closures during similar hours from July 8 to 10.

'Completely unacceptable,' says mayor

In a statement on Thursday, the City of Airdrie said this closure will leave 80,000 residents and people living in a catchment area — including north Calgary, Crossfield and Rocky View County — without access to nearby urgent medical care.

"This is completely unacceptable," said Airdrie Mayor Peter Brown in a statement.

"We have been advocating to the provincial government for years for expanded health-care services for our city, yet here we are moving backwards without 24-hour services, seven days a week, for our residents and neighbouring communities."

Brown said there was some positive movement forward when the urgent care centre went to a 24-hour model, but that's now stalled.

"I want to thank those health-care professionals that do such great work in our community," said Brown.

"This certainly isn't a reflection of the quality of care they provide; this is about Alberta Health Services and our provincial leaders not making health care a priority for Airdrie and the other municipalities affected by this physician shortage."

Brown "strongly encouraged" community members with concerns about access to health-care services to contact their MLA and Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping.

With files from Lucie Edwardson

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