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Rural Alta. community nearing 100 days without overnight emergency service

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The emergency department at a health-care centre north of Edmonton has not been open overnight since July. 

"High vacancies among nursing staff and an inability to secure sufficient temporary coverage" was the reason cited by Alberta Health Services when it initially announced the service disruption at the Boyle Healthcare Centre on June 30. 

At the time, it was expected the facility would be open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily until August. 

But AHS extended the new schedule three more times, including on Sept. 29. 

Now, the community 150 kilometres north of Alberta's capital city will not have overnight emergency service until at least Oct. 31.

"This will allow existing staff to provide consistent service each day, during the times when the majority of emergency department and outpatient visits occur. Inpatient admissions will be paused," AHS said in the Thursday notice. 

As of Monday, Boyle's emergency department had been closed overnight for 94 days. If it opens overnight on Nov. 1, it will be the first time in 122 days. 

AHS said patient safety and care are its highest priorities. 

"The organization is working hard to ensure everyone will receive the care they need through its partnership with EMS and a robust regional network of healthcare centres."

Boyle has a population of about 780, according to the Alberta Regional Dashboard. 

Seeing staff shortages in dozens of communities across the province, the Alberta government has launched several initiatives to recruit new workers and incentivize some to work in remote areas, such as the Alberta Rural Health Professions Action Plan, the Rural Education Supplement and Integrated Doctor Experience (RESIDE) program, and a campaign to draw skilled workers from other provinces. 

Monday morning, an AHS website listing health-care facility service disruptions and closures showed 29 impacted sites. 

The AHS job board featured postings for home care, operating room, and travel nurses across Alberta. 

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Kyra Markov

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