Acute care and emergency room admissions have been temporarily suspended at the Galloway Health Centre in Oxbow.
The suspension of services took effect on Thursday morning.
The provincial government announced earlier this spring that Oxbow’s health centre, as well as the one in Arcola and 10 other Saskatchewan communities, could be converted to alternate levels of care (ALC) facilities as part of the province’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Oxbow was a Phase 3 facility, which means it was one of the last to be converted to ALC. Arcola was in Phase 2, and it was converted last week.
Lisa Pearce, the administrator of the Town of Oxbow, sent a letter to Saskatchewan Health Authority CEO Scott Livingstone on behalf of council. The letter states that the town was writing the letter with “extreme disappointment.”
“The suspension of emergency services for an indefinite period to our community puts us, and our surrounding communities, at risk; from our seniors to our producers,” the letter stated.
The town believes the course of action is meant to mitigate a potential threat of COVID-19, but there are known risks with farming operations, which are underway.
“We are entering the busiest season of the year in rural areas — seeding, haying and harvest, which carry the most risks for farmers and those who live in rural areas,” the letter said. “The increase in traffic and large equipment operations alone increases this potential, not to mention the oil, gas and coal industries that keep this province running.”
The letter goes on to say that to learn that those who do sustain injuries will be sent to another facility at least 50 kilometres away, and could mean death, is alarming.
Oxbow is already experiencing disruptions to EMS ambulance services due to being short-staffed and they fear that the increased responsibilities and travel time placed on EMTs will leave the community with no emergency medical services at all.
“Will the health authority be providing additional support and resources for EMTs during this closure?”
The people of the Oxbow and area have been diligent in following the provincial guidelines to avoid an outbreak of COVID-19 quite successfully and it now seems that these same constituents are being "punished" for their diligence.
While the town is confident that the province has considered all the variables, the town is unhappy their recognizance has resulted in a reduced safe area for them to work and live.
According to the SHA, ALC refers to a patient that could be cared for in an alternate setting, rather than an acute care setting. This would refer to palliative, convalescing, respite, rehab or long-term care patients.
According to the SHA, discussions with community leaders in all 12 communities have occurred throughout the process in order to specifically outline these changes in each community hospital.
Livingstone has said previously the conversions are taking place to protect people in long-term and to use facilities’ capacity to provide care for alternative level of care positions in larger facilities.