A town southeast of Edmonton will be without an ER doctor this weekend because the emergency room is closed.

The lack of crucial medical services is causing concern along with the hope that no emergencies arise.

“We’re praying. We’re trusting that we won’t have any major incidents over the weekend,” Killam Mayor Ben Kellert said Saturday.

Killam residents received a Covenant Health notice via social media Friday.

It states the emergency department at the Killam Health Care Centre will be closed for the weekend because there are no doctors available.

“Our doctors are stretched like any doctors in urban centres,” Kellert said.

Covenant Health said the ER will be closed until Tuesday at 8 a.m., adding that the move is temporary.

Dr. Paul Parks, president of emergency medicine with the Alberta Medical Association, said this is no surprise.

“It’s very tough for the communities, and that kind of critical shortage in our rural communities is happening more and more across Alberta,” Parks said.

Patients requiring emergency care must travel to Daysland or Viking.

“If someone has to travel an extra half hour or longer to go to the next hospital in order to seek immediate emergency intervention, it could be life- or limb-threatening, for sure,” Parks said.

Kellert called the situation unfortunate and a sign of how the health-care system is struggling right now.

“With the pandemic raging, we’re just having a lot more fatigue, and we’re having a lot more illness and short coverage where basically doctors have been working extra to cover for illnesses,” Parks said.

Parks believes the broken relationship with the Alberta government as well as recruitment and retention are also factors leading to shortages.

While Kellert is concerned, he is urging people to be patient and understanding of what medical professionals are going through.

“If they don’t take care of themselves, they won’t be taking care of us,” Kellert said.

Alberta Health Services is listing two other rural communities without ER service this weekend; Milk River is expected to open its ER again Tuesday while Hardisty could be closed until November or longer.

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