By Kevin Forsyth
For Alta Newspaper Group
Rural hospitals and urgent-care facilities are moving to appointment-only lab work for outpatients.
Alberta Health Services (AHS) is implementing the temporary change in an effort to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in these facilities, and to ensure laboratory resources remain available for people who need them most.
The change will not affect lab work for hospital inpatients and all patients requiring laboratory tests will continue to receive them, according to AHS.
Outpatient activity is being limited at acute-care and urgent-care facilities as part of the province’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, many rural facilities offer the only laboratory services in the community.
Some waiting areas in these rural lab collection sites are small and not suitable for maintaining appropriate physical distancing. AHS says appointment-only lab work will improve safety for rural patients at high risk for severe illness, such as those with compromised immune systems.
The temporary measure includes the following local rural health centres: Bow Island, Cardston, Coaldale, Crowsnest Pass, Fort Macleod, Milk River, Picture Butte, Pincher Creek, Raymond and Taber.
AHS is encouraging patients to discuss the urgency of their lab work with their physician before booking appointments.
Appointments can be made by providers or patients by phone or online.