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SPAN gym best viable option for vaccination clinic in St. Paul, says AHS

AHS says it has taken steps to enhance accessibility for those getting vaccines in St. Paul.
It's a bit of a walk for seniors to access the SPAN gym, but AHS says it is the best viable location for a COVID-19 vaccination clinic.

ST. PAUL - With COVID-19 vaccinations now being done for those 75 years and older across the province, vaccination clinics have popped up in communities across the Lakeland. 

In St. Paul, the St. Paul Abilities Network (SPAN) gymnasium is being used as both a testing centre and a vaccination clinic, confirmed Alberta Health Services, in a statement provided to LakelandToday on March 1.  

Concerns regarding accessibility at the facility have been brought forward by at least one local resident who says she noticed a few issues when she brought her mom for a vaccination appointment on Feb. 28. 

Jana Dechaine says she feels the location is unacceptable due to the state of the parking lot. The area is very uneven, and presents a long walk for seniors. Snow and ice were also issues, and a clear path wasn’t visible to the doors on Sunday. 

Dechaine wondered why a facility such as the St. Paul Rec Centre wasn’t being used for a vaccination clinic instead. 

“We recognize there may be some accessibility issues for Albertans 75+ accessing their COVID-19 vaccination at the St. Paul Abilities Network (SPAN) gymnasium. We have taken steps on-site to enhance accessibility for clients,” said AHS.

Meanwhile, MLA David Hanson said St. Paul Mayor Maureen Miller went “above and beyond” to sort out a vaccine clinic in the community. He said that while the SPAN location has a smaller parking lot, no sidewalk and is “maybe not the most convenient place,” it is better than the alternative. 

“This is a good news story so our seniors don’t have to drive 45 minutes to get a vaccine,” Hanson said, adding it is his understanding AHS is aware of the concerns and is working to make things as easy as possible, including providing wheelchair access for those needing it through the back of the building.  

"I was approached way back in the fall by AHS for information for a . . . space for testing," said Miller. She explained the request was for a possible long-term space, to be available for a minimum of six months. 

"The space needed to be large enough to accommodate spacing requirements and ability to possibly have larger than recommended size of groups. Our Rec. Centre would seem to be the likely location, but at the same time we needed to have it kept available for emergency management for a possible outbreak as well as for courthouse trial or jury selection," said Miller.

A number of locations were reviewed and a few recommendations put forward.

"AHS ultimately chose this location as it likely met almost all if it’s needs," said the mayor. She added that she was thankful St. Paul was chosen as a location for vaccinations.

According to AHS, staff are on site and available to help clients get to and from their vehicle when they arrive for appointments. 

Albertans 75+ and/or their caregivers who require on-site assistance in St. Paul can call 587-299-5247 prior to their appointment to arrange it.

Testing site also

The SPAN gymnasium has been a COVID-19 testing site, and will continue to serve as both a testing and immunization clinic in St. Paul.  

“We do not offer COVID-19 testing and vaccine immunization appointments simultaneously. Extensive infection prevention and control measures are continuously followed on-site and there is rigorous cleaning conducted after each clinic,” according to AHS. 

A number of factors are taken into account when choosing a facility for vaccination and immunization clinic use, “but the SPAN gymnasium was our best viable option,” according to AHS. 

“We thank the community for their feedback and we appreciate their continued support.” 

*This story was updated to reflect Mayor Maureen Miller's comments.