The reopening of 10 acute care beds was once again delayed at Rocky Mountain House’s hospital due to ongoing staffing challenges.
Ten of Rocky Mountain House Health Centre’s 31 acute care beds have been temporarily unavailable since Dec. 10, 2021 and were suppose to reopen most recently April 10 before being rescheduled to May 10.
“There is still space for additional patients to be admitted as needed, including private space for palliative patients. The temporary closure of these acute care beds also allows for continued operation of obstetrics and surgical services in Rocky Mountain House,” said Alberta Health Services in a statement.
“The Emergency Department remains open and operational. Anyone in need of emergency care will receive it. There are no other service disruptions at the site.”
Rocky family physician Dr. Edward Aasma said the bed closures are mostly due to a lack nurses, and prevent Rocky-area patients who required treatment in larger hospitals from returning to recuperate in Rocky.
“It takes people away from family support, and trying to co-ordinate getting back home is a little harder,” Aasma said.
Heather Smith, United Nurses of Alberta president, said Rocky has needed more registered nurses and licensed practical nurses for a few years, and having only 10 beds closed given the lack of staff is also a point of contention.
“At the end of February they had about a 40 per cent vacancy rate which is huge, resulting in lots of demand for mandatory overtime. They are desperate and they have been for a long time,” said Smith who doubted beds in the popular tourist area would reopen in May.
She said in the last few years AHS has not dedicated resources to support a lot of initiatives and courses to prepare staff without rural nursing experience, and that increases turnover.
“People won’t stay if they think they don’t have the skills for safe practice.”
Smith said the province has put $7.5 million a year towards recruiting and retaining rural nurses, and that’s not enough with such a competitive job market.
AHS said patients admitted to the hospital continue to receive safe, high quality care, and every effort is being made to fill vacancies.
“We would like to thank the community for their patience and understanding during this time, including supporting ongoing recruitment activities of health-care personnel to the site and community,” AHS said.
Residents are reminded to call Health Link at 811, which is available 24/7 for non-emergency health-related questions.