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Obstetric services temporarily disrupted in St. Paul, new doctor on the way for Lac La Biche

Obstetric services in St. Paul are on pause until 7 p.m. on Jan. 12, according to Alberta Health Services. The Lac La Biche hospital also remains without obstetric services but doctor with anesthesia specialty is expected to join the community soon.

LAKELAND - As 2022 ended and 2023 began, some things remained the same as health care service disruptions continued across the Lakeland region into the new year. 

In St. Paul, the St. Therese-St. Paul Healthcare Centre was without obstetric services for various lengths of time during the holiday season, starting Dec. 22 to Dec. 27, specifically, according to the AHS Facilities: Temporary Service Disruptions map.

When Lakeland Today reached out to AHS for an update, it was noted that the "St.Therese - St. Paul Healthcare Centre would see an extended period of time without obstetric services from Jan. 4 at 7 p.m. to Jan. 12 at 7 p.m."

The service disruption is due to temporary staff shortages, according to Shelly Willsey, spokesperson with AHS. When asked when the last baby was born at the St. Paul hospital, Willsey said she would look into it, although a response was not received as of Lakeland This Week's press deadline.

"AHS is working closely with surrounding healthcare sites, including Bonnyville Healthcare Centre and Cold Lake Healthcare Centre, to offer additional support to St. Paul patients as needed," said Willsey.

She also confirmed that 10 out of 42 acute care beds remain unavailable at the St. Paul hospital, also due to “Temporary staff shortage.” The beds initially became unavailable in June of 2021. 

On Jan. 11, the AHS map showing temporary service disruptions across the province also noted a disruption in surgery at the St. Paul hospital on Jan. 7 and 8.

Lac La Biche

Farther north, the Lac La Biche community also continues to grapple with service disruptions in obstetrics and surgical services, due to a “Temporary lack of anesthesia physician coverage.” The situation began in May of 2022, but an end is now in sight.

Due to a lack of general practitioner with anesthesia coverage, Lac La Biche’s W.J. Cadzow Healthcare Centre is still unable to provide obstetrics and c-sections, confirmed Willsey, on Jan. 4.

"AHS continues to work to ensure all expecting mothers have the support they need, including having a plan in place for where they will safely deliver their babies," she added.

Willsey confirmed a permanent family medicine physician with anesthesia specialty has been hired to provide services within the community of Lac La Biche. The physician’s start date is not yet known, as an assessment process requires completion prior to starting work in the community.

Cold Lake

While there were no imminent service disruptions expected at the Cold Lake Healthcare Centre when Lakeland Today spoke with AHS, by Jan. 11 the AHS map showing temporary service disruptions listed disruptions in surgery and c-sections due to no anesthesia being on site at the Cold Lake hospital, Jan. 5 to Jan. 6, and Jan. 11 to the morning of Jan. 13.

Janice Huser

About the Author: Janice Huser

Janice Huser has been with the St. Paul Journal since 2006. She is a graduate of the SAIT print media journalism program, is originally from St. Paul and has a passion for photography.
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