Calgary's mayor says closure of Airdrie urgent care centre affects entire region

·3 min read

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek says the situation at an urgent care centre in the nearby city of Airdrie is dire and will affect the entire region.

On Thursday, Alberta Health Services said the centre is to be closed overnight on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for the next eight weeks due to a lack of available doctors to cover shifts.

It said new patients won't be admitted after 8 p.m., but nurses will be on hand to triage people who arrive at the health facility and to help those patients get to another emergency department if needed.

"The situation in Airdrie is dire and it will have impact to all of the neighbouring partners and that's why you see the partners in the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board here advocating for answers on behalf of Airdrie residents," Gondek said Friday.

She and others on the board representing cities such as Airdrie and Cochrane, as well as two rural counties, held a news conference to raise their concerns about the temporary closure.

Heather Spearman, an Airdrie city councillor on the board, said the partners are calling for an immediate meeting with Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping to address the issue.

"It is unacceptable to our region that we are seeing urgent care closures like the one in Airdrie on top of ambulance shortages and emergency dispatch issues," she said.

"We are asking Minister Copping to respond to this question: What is being done to address the shortage of health-care staff to run our emergency facilities and what is the provincial government doing to protect Albertans, particularly in the Calgary Metropolitan Region?"

No one from Copping's office immediately returned a request for comment.

Health authorities across the country are dealing with staffing shortages, which are contributing to emergency room closures, ambulance delays and a lack of family doctors.

Spearman said the situation in Airdrie is critical.

"I would consider this potentially a life-and-death situation at this point," she said. "This is an issue not only for Airdrie but for the region."

The critical care centre, she said, gets patients from Rocky View County, Cochrane and the north end of Calgary.

Rocky View Coun. Kevin Hanson said the rural municipality, which surrounds Calgary to the west, north and east, relies almost entirely on its urban neighbours for health care.

"There are no medical facilities in Rocky View, really," he said. "That's why it's important we stand firm in this, in supporting Airdrie."

Gondek said the overnight closure could see Calgary's busy hospitals get busier and it could also affect Calgarians who live in the city's northern communities.

"We don't have a north health-care facility in our city," she said. "A lot of our residents in (that area) are accessing Airdrie for health care, so this has massive impacts for everybody in the region."

Airdrie, which is about half an hour north of Calgary, is home to around 80,000 residents. Alberta Health Services said the critical care centre saw nearly 30,000 patients in 2020-21. Those patients come from Airdrie's population plus an additional 30,000 from the surrounding areas.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 22, 2022.

Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press

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