The town of Bassano is a community of around 1200 people located in rural Alberta. In May of 2022, the community faced a looming threat when the physicians of the Bassano Health Center terminated their services. This would leave the hospital and community in a precarious situation. Lack of physicians would mean prolonged service interruption and the very real possibility that the hospital emergency department would have to close their doors. This was especially worrisome to the town and healthcare workers amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
Linda Parrish, a dedicated Physician Assistant of the Bassano Health Centre, along with her colleagues, recognized the gravity of the situation. With no readily available physicians to fill the vacancies at the hospital, swift action was needed to prevent a collapse of the community's healthcare system. Understanding the adverse impacts this would have, Linda and the healthcare workers took matters into their own hands.
Approaching the South Zone leadership, Linda proposed the group’s interim solution that would serve as a lifeline for Bassano. As Physician Assistant’s extend the services and of their supervising physician, Linda could cover the Emergency Department from Monday to Friday, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, so long as she had a remote supervising physician, in this case located at the Brooks Health Center, the nearest neighboring hospital. Although the ER services would be disrupted during evenings and nights from Monday to Thursday, locum physicians wcould step in to provide 24-hour coverage from Friday evening to Monday morning. With a shared goal, Linda and the team worked tirelessly to serve as many patients as possible.
With only one ambulance, and a lack of transportation services, the community band together to support one another with volunteers driving patients to appointments. As the ER remained open, patients could also be welcomed from places such as Airdrie, Alberta, a town located an hour away. The ER remained a beacon for those in need, underscoring the vital role it played in the region.
While acute care patients were transferred to neighboring hospitals, long-term care (LTC) residents remained under the watchful eye of a physician from Brooks and the onsite care from the team. This would ensure the residents continuity of care and prevent their decline. In the absence of mental health resources, the team also worked to provide support for both patients and healthcare workers facing the continued strain of the pandemic. The execution of the plan was meticulous and required the team to mitigate potential risks together.
For six months, the team at the Bassano Health Center persevered, providing services to the community with higher acuity patients redirected to Brooks.
The success of this interim solution would not have been possible without the unwavering confidence of the local community, the support of South Zone leadership, and the cooperation of the ED Physicians at the Brooks Healthcare Center, with a special nod to Dr. Kitts. The entire healthcare team, from nurses to administrators, worked seamlessly, proving that in times of crisis, unity and collaboration could overcome even the most significant challenges.
This story is a shining example of healthcare workers such as Physician Assistants, nurses and administrative support staff working collaboratively to navigate uncharted waters, and come out successful in a time of need.
Linda, now pursuing a Masters in Disaster and Emergency Management while still practicing as a full-time Physician Assistant, shows the valuable role of Physician Assistants in healthcare. o. This case also serves as an example what can be done when we share a united goal and come together.
Join us in celebrating Alberta’s 10-year anniversary of integrating Physician Assistants in their health care system, these stories show how important PAs are in health care systems. We look forward to seeing PA support in all Canadian provinces and Territories soon.