Ambulances in West Prince are no longer being diverted to Summerside, however, it appears the Alberton emergency room will be closed overnight for additional days this month.
Ambulances will resume transporting patients in West Prince to Western Hospital in Alberton, except on days the emergency room at Western is closed overnight.
But a government news release announcing the end of the diversion Thursday also listed additional days Western Hospital’s emergency room would be closed that were not originally scheduled.
The last scheduled overnight closure as listed in a public advisory sent earlier this month was to be Aug. 21 from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. the following day.
The advisory sent Thursday includes Aug. 23, 27 and 29 among the days it will also be closed, from 6 p.m. until the next morning at 8 a.m.
Nonetheless, the government advisory says the ambulance diversion was lifted because Health P.E.I. “was able to achieve more stable physician coverage in the emergency department for the remainder of August.”
Health Minister Doug Currie said a provincewide call to P.E.I. doctors asking them to take on emergency hours in Alberton proved successful.
“We’ve had some success just in the short term over the last 48 hours identifying physicians who would be interested in covering those shifts that were originally not covered.”
Last week, Health P.E.I. announced all ambulances serving western P.E.I. would be diverted to Summerside for the month of August, even on days Western Hospital is open. This was done after word came that Western would be forced to close overnight for six days in August due to doctors who provide emergency service taking summer vacation.
The problems stem from the fact that although West Prince currently has 10 practising doctors — just two shy of its full complement — only four of these physicians are willing to work in the emergency room.
This is also the reason for chronic closures at the O’Leary walk-in clinic.
The situation has escalated to one of urgent concern in the community. About 400 residents of the rural community staged a protest at Western Hospital earlier this week to show their displeasure over the situation.
Currie said an 11th doctor has been recruited for the area and will begin seeing patients in October. In the meantime, work is ongoing to bring temporary relief to the area and to recruit the last doctor needed to fill western P.E.I.’s physician complement.
“We’re looking for short-term solutions on locums and we’re also looking at internal requests to physicians in emergency rooms across the province who may be interested in working and providing support at Western Hospital,” Currie said.