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Morinville Clinic to lose X-ray, lab services Feb. 1

Town residents angry, disappointed
1901 morin lab sup copy CC
The Morinville Clinic on 100th Street is set to close at the end of January 2022, which will force residents to travel outside the community for laboratory and diagnostic imaging services. SCREEN/Photo

This story originally identified Cynthia Petersen as "Cynthia Morin" due to the reporter reading his notes wrong. The Gazette apologizes and has updated this story with the correct name.

Morinville residents say they’re frustrated and confused by Alberta Health Services’ decision to close the town’s medical lab in less than two weeks — a move that will force hundreds of patients to drive to St. Albert for basic medical tests.

Alberta Health Services published a notice Jan. 17 saying it would permanently close the laboratory and diagnostic imaging services at the Morinville Clinic on Feb. 1, with lab service to end Jan. 31.

The Morinville Clinic is located next to the Sturgeon County Centre on 100th Street. It offers lab services such as blood analysis and used to perform X-ray imaging — its X-ray machine broke in February 2020 and was never repaired.

The AHS notice cited low patient numbers, difficulties in retaining staff, and a lack of working X-ray equipment as the reasons behind its decision. Lab and X-ray staff at the clinic will be reassigned elsewhere. The clinic will remain open for other services.

Staff needed elsewhere

Morinville is home to one of the three labs and two X-ray facilities in Sturgeon County as of Jan. 18, the province’s Find Healthcare website reported (Gibbons has a lab, and Redwater does lab and X-ray work).

In an email, communications director Grady Semmens of Alberta Precision Laboratories (an AHS subsidiary that runs many of the province’s medical labs) said they decided to close the Morinville lab this week to address staff shortages at hospital-based labs, such as those in St. Albert, Redwater, and Fort Saskatchewan.

“Ongoing challenges filling vacancies combined with strains related to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to staffing challenges across the province, particularly at our rural health-care facilities,” Semmens said, which has led to some difficult decisions on where to deploy staff.

Semmens said the Morinville Clinic hosts about 400 patients a week, and that there is no specific number of patients needed for a site to remain open.

When asked why the clinic’s X-ray machine had been broken for two years, Semmens said it was so old they could not get the parts to fix it. His group decided not to replace it due to costs and the availability of X-ray service in nearby communities such as St. Albert.

Confusion and outrage

Morinville Mayor Simon Boersma said he found out about the closure through the media and had been busy calling local mayors to determine how it will affect the region. He is scheduled to discuss the closure with area MLA Dale Nally late on Jan. 18.

“I’m extremely disappointed by the lack of sufficient notice we’ve received,” Boersma said, as were other mayors he had contacted.

Boersma said he is still trying to understand why this clinic is being closed, as it is a busy place that serves patients from Gibbons to Alexander First Nation.

“Health care is a very important aspect of the community,” he said, and now residents will have to drive or take a taxi to St. Albert for these services.

“It has an impact.”

Lifelong Morinville resident Alanna Zinger said she was angry and disappointed by the closure, which will make it more costly for residents to get essential services.

“We need doctors here in Morinville and we need services here in Morinville, and they’re just stripping them away from us.”

In an online interview, 14-year Morinville resident Rachel Reis said the town’s clinic is extremely convenient to use compared to those in St. Albert, especially for the town’s many seniors.

“Losing this service is a step backwards,” she said, and another deterrent to living in Morinville.

“What’s next, lose our doctors?”

Town resident Cynthia Petersen said she uses the clinic for X-rays and blood work. She is concerned about how the closure will affect the region’s many seniors, not all of whom can drive into St. Albert.

“It’s very vital for Morinville to be having this clinic,” she said, especially given that the town is the size of a small city.

“This is really not the right time to be removing something like that.”

The AHS notice said St. Albert’s DynaLIFE patient service centre, the MIC Summit Centre, and the Sturgeon Community Hospital could take on X-ray and lab service patients from Morinville without affecting appointments or walk-ins.

Visit or call 1-877-868-6848 for questions on where to get lab work done.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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