High River emergency room reopens

Health: Hospital on track to fully re-open in September

By: Don Patterson

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Aug 14, 2013 06:43 pm

The emergency room at the High River Hospital re-opened last week.
The emergency room at the High River Hospital re-opened last week.
Don Patterson/OWW

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The High River Hospital emergency room is accepting its first patients since the June 20 flood.

The emergency room reopened on Aug. 8 at 8 a.m., the latest step in a phased approach to fully re-opening the facility.

Brenda Huband, AHS Calgary zone senior vice-president, said it has taken a lot to get the hospital to this level.

“Now we’re able to move on to what would be considered the next level, if you will, and that is opening the emergency department exactly as it was,” she said.

With the opening of the emergency department, Huband said the hospitals in-patient beds will reopen over time.

She said the first beds to open will be those used for emergency patients.

“If there’s people seen in emergency tomorrow (on Aug. 8) that require admission, we’ll have the beds and staff available to see them and care for those people overnight,” said Huband.

An urgent care centre was operating out of the hospital and will now close with the opening of the emergency room.

The Okotoks Urgent Care centre was operating for 24 hours a day while the hospital was closed. She said it is now back to its regular hours.

The High River hospital should be fully operational by September, with all programs and services up and running. Still to open are the hospital’s cancer clinic, surgical services, obstetrics and the beds that would be used for those patients.

“Other services will still open over time, it isn’t all right away,” said Huband.

She said a number of things needed to be done before the ER could reopen.

Huband said the first priority was to ensure primary and community care services were in place. Community care services, including mental health, public health and home care services are based out of the hospital until provincial health offices in the downtown are repaired and reopened.

Huband said long-term care residents are being moved back into the hospital and the Charles Clark Medical Centre is open. As well, the hospital’s x-ray department, laboratory and food and nutrition services are all open.

“Those other steps are really foundational for health service delivery and we wanted to ensure the foundation for health is well established in the community.

Mike Brown, Executive director of the High River and District Hospital Foundation, said it’s a positive to see the hospital on course back to re-opening.

“The hospital will come back, health care services will come back, those are all stepping stones towards rebuilding this community,” he said.

Brown said the flood won’t affect the organization’s fundraising goal of raising $1 million to expand the hospital’s cancer clinic, but he admitted it may take longer to reach it.

He said the foundation realizes many of their regular donors in High River have other financial priorities after the flood. He said the foundation acknowledges there won’t be as many dollars around this year to go towards its fundraising efforts. While the foundation will go ahead with its annual fundraising dinner this fall, it will be a scaled down event compared to previous years.

“We have to be sensitive to the situation people are in,” said Brown.

He said the foundation had hoped work to renovate and expand the cancer clinic could beginning in 2014. Brown said the vision remains alive, but he doesn’t yet know how the timetable will be affected.

“This has been a wallop for everyone, it’s certainly been a wallop for Alberta Health Services, sorting out how the chips may fall will be kind of an ongoing thing,” he said.

The re-opening of the hospital is an important step in the rebuilding of the community, said one High River resident who worked on the building while it was first under construction.

High River resident Dan Telfer worked a crane operator, pouring concrete and moving steel girders into place when the hospital was built.

He said the hospital needs to be back up and running.

“It’s been a real cornerstone of the community, is that hospital,” said Telfer. “I’m glad to see they’re doing what I think should be done.”


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