Temporary closures at Milk River Health Centre’s emergency department because of ‘physician absence’

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WATCH ABOVE: Alberta Health Services said the emergency department at the Milk River Health Centre is seeing temporary closures due to “physician absence.” Quinn Campbell explains – Dec 29, 2020

The emergency department at the Milk River Health Centre is experiencing temporary closures over the next week due to what Alberta Health Services is calling a ”physician absence.”

The medical clinic has also been closed.

“If we had another doctor here, then they wouldn’t have had to close the clinic for a month,” said Peggy Losey, the mayor of Milk River.

She said the current community physician, Dr. Henry Ovwasa, travelled to Nigeria to visit his family in October while the town still had two doctors. But now, Ovwasa is having issues returning to Canada. The other doctor left his position at the beginning of December, as was previously planned before Ovwasa had left for his trip.

Read more: Badly-needed new doctor arrives in Milk River, Alberta from South Africa

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“There was some immigration problems, and it’s taken two months to iron them out,” Losey said.

“I understand he is on his way home now, and after a two-week quarantine… the clinic will again be open and he will be here.”

There is typically just one doctor in Milk River, but Losey said ideally there would be more.

The mayor said she feels the previous doctor, who worked as a solo physician for much of his tenure, got burnt out.

“He also had to be on call quite often, so he was here for five years and he was always working,” Losey said.

“It was hard for him to get time off.”

AHS issued a statement about the matter.

“We are doing all we can to ensure patients receive the care they need, when they need it, and would like to thank all patients for their support and understanding during this time,” the health authority said.

The mayor said with such a large area to cover, having no clinic or emergency department within an hour’s drive leaves residents at risk.

Read more: Doctor shortage in southern Alberta: Part 2

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“It could be a very serious situation if someone was in trouble,” Losey said.

Anyone in the affected are who requires immediate medical care is urged to call 911.

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