Two communities in northern Alberta facing shortage of doctors in emergency departments, Hinshaw to provide COVID-19 update Monday afternoon

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Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health will provide an update on the growing spread of COVID-19 in the province on Monday, with three days of expected number of cases.

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Dr. Deena Hinshaw will speak at 3:30 p.m. and availability will be streamed live on the Government of Alberta website.

The update comes as two emergency departments in northern Alberta face a physician shortage throughout the week as COVID-19 cases continue to rise rapidly across the province.

There will be no medical coverage in the emergency department at the Wabasca-Desmarais Health Care Center until Jan. 15 at 8 a.m., Alberta Health Services said in a press release Friday. For the week without medical access, emergency responders will be redirected to one of the three health centers located more than 100 kilometers away.

Instead, ambulances will transfer patients to Slave Lake Health Center, 122 kilometers away, Athabasca Health Center, 175 kilometers, or Boyle Health Center, 199 kilometers away.

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In Cold Lake, the emergency service will face an intermittent loss of medical coverage until January 14. The health center will be without a doctor from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, from 11 p.m. Wednesday to 3 p.m. Thursday and from 11 p.m. Thursday at 7 a.m. Friday.

In both cases, hospital nurses will remain on site to provide triage, assessments and patient referrals as needed. Patients are asked to call 911 for medical emergencies and the Health Link at 811 for non-emergency health issues.

AHS notes that these are both temporary measures and that the health authority is working hard to ensure residents have continued access to care.

In response to the shortage of two doctors, Alberta NDP health critic David Shepherd is calling on the UCP government to release updated information on the current state of health care in hospitals in the province. Shepherd will speak to the media about these concerns this afternoon.

The most recent data from Alberta Health updated Friday shows 43,414 active cases of COVID-19 across the province with 504 people hospitalized and 64 in the intensive care unit. Hospitalizations topped 500 for the first time since mid-November. There were 6,257 new cases identified in Alberta in the last update on Friday, a new daily record.

More soon.

duscook@postmedia.com

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