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New sexual health clinic opens in Ponoka in reponse to rising STI cases in central Alberta

AHS: Syphilis is a concern in Red Deer, Ponoka, Wetaskiwin
The Ponoka Sexual Health Clinic opened Oct. 13, and operates twice a week with a team that includes a physician, nurses and nurse practitioners. (Photo submitted)

The Town of Ponoka is now the site of the only Alberta Health Services sexual health clinic in the central zone due to a rise in some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the zone.

“AHS continually monitors the health needs of its communities and adjusts the offerings of its programs and services when and where they are needed,” said Tracy Kennedy, senior communications advisor for the Alberta Health Services (AHS) central zone.

“Ponoka is centrally located in the zone and supports a large, rural population base. We are looking at expanding this service to other locations where staffing is available and there’s a community need,” said Kennedy.

“Some areas of the Central Zone, including Red Deer, Ponoka and Wetaskiwin, are seeing higher rates of some sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Syphilis is a particular concern, as an outbreak in Alberta is impacting people from all groups of the population with rates of infection not seen in many decades.”

According to Kennedy, Central Zone’s syphilis rate, at 79.4 reported cases per 100,000 people, has surpassed the provincial rate of 73.2 reported cases per 100,000 people.

“Easy access to health services is a key component to early detection of STIs, which often do not have symptoms or symptoms do not show for some time. In other words, people may feel healthy and not know they have infection.”

The Ponoka Sexual Health Clinic opened on Oct. 13.

Operating out of the Ponoka Community Health Centre (located at 5900 Hwy 2A), the clinic will provide STI testing and treatment, pregnancy testing, birth control, inclusive sexual health education and other services.

The clinic is open Tuesdays from 3 to 6 p.m. and Fridays from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Appointments can be booked by calling 403-783-8344 and drop-in visits are also available. All visits are confidential.

New physicians

The clinic is supported by two existing local physicians, a nurse practitioner and registered nurses, and will help ease some pressures on primary care needs, said Kennedy.

According to Kennedy, one newly recruited physician has begun practising in Ponoka and three others are in varying stages of completing the necessary assessments as required by the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

READ MORE: Ponoka mayor pushing to fix town’s ER problems before it is too late

Emily Jaycox

About the Author: Emily Jaycox

I’m Emily Jaycox, the editor of Ponoka News and the Bashaw Star. I’ve lived in Ponoka since 2015 and have over seven years of experience working as a journalist in central Alberta communities.
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