By Megan Roth
The X-rays and labs were closed over the weekend due to a shortage of available staff, the Cypress Health Region said.
This is the second time in as many weeks the hospital has had to close areas due to staff limitations.
The vice president of medicine and senior medical officer for the region Ivo Radevski said it wasn’t until Friday morning that Cypress Health Region found they would have to close services at the hospital for the weekend if a new on-call physician wasn’t found to keep the emergency room open.
“The physician who was scheduled to be on call felt that he cannot provide emergency services in the absence of lab and X-ray at the hospital so he withdrew his services as well,” Radevski said.
The physician in question had been a part of training which was held at the Integrated Healthcare Facility on a new point of care testing unit. The unit is supposed to allow doctors to be able to provide some tests while lab services are unavailable.
The training took place on Friday at the facility in Maple Creek with a handful of physicians attending the training.
“We had a plan with the physicians at the hospital to provide what is called point of care testing. This is a portable (piece of) equipment for basic laboratory testing such as biochemistry and heart enzymes.
“We thought that would help those physicians to manage a select group of patients more effectively,” Radevski said.
Late Friday evening the health region announced a replacement doctor had been found for the weekend. The ER outpatient and impatient was open for the weekend, however the lab portion was still closed.
“Patients are encouraged to visit the emergency outpatient department for assessment by the physician/nursing team,” said Bryce Martin, Communications & Stakeholder Relations for Cypress Health Region in the media advisory statement.
Cypress Health Region is still looking to fill the full time position in the lab, Radevski said. In the meantime the health region plans to employ contract services to ensure the hospital will remain open.
With the help of the contracted company, whom Radevski was not at the liberty to disclose, the Integrated Healthcare Facility should be able to have lab services available throughout the remaining portion of December.
“Until the end of the month, even throughout Christmas, we don’t foresee any lack of diagnostic and laboratory services in Maple Creek. We expect to be able to operate and run the facility under normal conditions,” Radevski said.
The health region is still working on plans for coverage starting in January. One plan is to pull available workers from elsewhere to cover so that the hospital in Maple Creek will not have closed services again due to staff shortages.
These plans are not yet finalized, Radevski said, they are still working on the details.
If emergency services had closed over the weekend patients would have had to go elsewhere for care, like Swift Current or Medicine Hat. This means any emergency cases would have had to call 911 and go to whichever hospital was closer, that being Medicine Hat’s one hour drive time versus Swift Current’s one-and-a-half hour drive time.
Those of a less urgent nature, like a sprain, would drive themselves to the city of their choosing for care.
“The best advice would be to call 911 and get treatment in either Swift Current or Medicine Hat, whichever is closer,” Radevski said.
The lab services closed Dec. 10 at 5 p.m. and reopened the following morning at 8 a.m. The labs then closed again for the weekend at 5 p.m. on Dec. 11. Services reopened to the public Monday morning at 8 a.m.