'Unacceptable': Assiniboia residents raise concerns over emergency service disruptions

Another temporary service disruption in Assiniboia has shut down the town’s emergency services for 12 hours each day.

Assiniboia Union Hospital’s (AUH) emergency department will be closed from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day for the foreseeable future.

“Our ER closed any time is totally unacceptable to us,” said Mayor Sharon Schauenberg.

“It causes worry, panic and concern out in our community.”

Schauenberg has been a part of ongoing discussions with the SHA since the first service disruption in August 2021.

The mayor met with SHA officials to discuss an action plan and potential solutions on Tuesday.

“It is a scary time for all of us. But we’re hoping a resolution can be found,” she said.

“I’m confident we’ll get through this, we will carry on and we will get back to running our services in the community.”

EMS and primary health care services are not impacted by the disruption, the SHA said.

AUH serves roughly 10,000 people in the area, according to Schauenberg, and some come from communities as far as an hour away.

Residents are asked to call 911 immediately in the case of serious emergencies. As for minor emergencies, patients should seek care at the hospitals in Gravelbourg or Moose Jaw.

“We’re an hour away (from Moose Jaw) and when they talk about the golden hour, that hour makes a big difference,” said Allison Wright, director of care at Prairie Villa Personal Care Home.

The disruption impacts the quality and continuity of care for Prairie Villa residents, Wright said. The care home only staffs a licensed professional 15 hours each week. The rest of the time they rely on ER services.

“This is the generation that built our healthcare system,” Wright said. “It’s their time of need and they deserve that kind of service”

David Marit, the MLA for the area, said he has been fielding calls and emails from concerned residents since the disruption was announced.

“As the MLA of the area, this is very concerning news,” he said.

“(The Minister of Rural and Remote Health) has assured me he is committed to finding a solution and reopening the emergency room to 24-hour coverage as soon as it is possible to provide safe and reliable care.”

In a statement, the SHA said ER services will be fully restored as soon as the human resource challenges are addressed.

“The current staffing shortages are the result of a number of factors including COVID-19 and retirements,” the SHA said. “Recruitment to address the staff shortages required to support the safe operation of Assiniboia Union Hospital emergency room is ongoing.”

According to the statement, the SHA is working on a number of strategies to address the disruption.

Assiniboia resident Mary Miller has been in and out of the emergency department for the last six months.

“I really got to see what was going on in there,” she said. “We have a lot of very over-worked nurses, who come in and do a 12-hour shift and then have to pull six or eight hours after that.”

Miller does not want staffing shortages to be an excuse for the closures. She would like to see the government improve its recruitment process, encourage more people to become nurses and create more seats in post-secondary programs.

“I know there is a shortage of nurses. I don’t want to hear it’s happening everywhere in the province. Let’s do something about it,” she said. “We are very spoiled in this town and to lose what we have is not something this town will tolerate.”

Miller is encouraging all concerned residents to reach out to Marit’s constituency office to voice their concerns.