Original Published May 9, 2022

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

Announcements that the Wabasca-Desmarais Care Centre emergency room is closed are becoming rather common.

Danielle Larivee is a registered nurse and the NDP candidate for Lesser Slave Lake. She reached out to The Leader about this topic.
“Recently, the emerg services in Wabasca were not available for a few days,” she says. “These things happen, (but) we’re starting to see this more and more across the north. It really seems to be coming to a crisis point.”

The most recent Wabasca closures were from 8 a.m. on April 29 to 8 a.m. on April 30, and 8 a.m. on Monday, May 2 to 8 a.m. on Wednesday, May 4, says an AHS news release about the Wabasca-Desmarais Care Centre. Nursing staff were on site to do triage, assessment, and referrals. EMS was transporting people to Slave Lake (122 km), Athabasca (175 km), and Boyle (199 km).

“Four days is a long time to go without even emergency services,” says Larivee.

People assume that they will have access to health-care, says Larivee. “It’s pretty anxiety-producing to think that that’s not the case.”

Larivee compares the increase of these emergency room and other hospital shortages to before COVID. However, it has gotten worse through COVID.

“What happened in Wabasca is just one of the symptoms,” she says. Hospital units are often short-staffed, which raises the possibility for healthcare worker burnout and for mistakes.

“We certainly would be calling on the UCP government for a plan,” says Larivee. “It isn’t okay. This really is a crisis, and it needs action now.”

Larivee knows of some examples where lack of nurses was the cause of closures, but usually it’s because there aren’t enough doctors.

“We need to be doing everything we can to keep doctors,” says Larivee.

While the NDP doesn’t have its platform yet for the 2023 election, Larivee is confident that healthcare will be part of it.

This item reprinted with permission from Lakeside Leader, Slave Lake, Alberta