Rimbey Hospital is one of 10 health care facilities in the central zone that no longer has the services of a chaplain.
Contracts, coming up for renewal late last year for the chaplains in these hospitals were not continued.
Alberta Health Services chief zone officer, Kerry Bales, said the move was made to provide consistency across the province, noting that some hospitals had contracted chaplains and others relied on volunteer service.
Bales added by not extending the contracts about $140,000 will be saved annually.
Pastor Reg Darnell from The New Life Fellowship in Rimbey said not renewing the contracts for chaplains is a “loss of service” that will sorely be felt in the hospital.
“There’s nothing optimistic about it. We simply have a reduction of services.”
Bales said AHS employs four full time and one part time chaplain for central zone which includes Two Hills to Drumheller, Lloydminster to Rocky Mountain House and many communities in-between.
Bales said AHS works with local churches to provide training for volunteers to provide pastoral care services.
“We recognize and support spiritual care,” he said, adding that community ministerial associations have been co-operative and receptive to the change.
However, Darnell said many of the volunteers are seniors and are finding it difficult and time consuming to complete the necessary paper work to volunteer for spiritual care at the hospital.
“Now there are more hoops to jump through. It is more difficult.”
Rev. David Holmes, who was the chaplain at the Rimbey Hospital for nine and a half years, said he very much enjoyed his role.
“It kind of becomes like your parish in a way,” he said. “Every day was different.”
Holmes said he spent time at the hospital getting to know both patients and staff. He visited with everyone who was receptive to having company, he said.
He also made referrals for people of a different faith.
“I had an office there and sometimes people would just stop by to chat. I was a friend to the people and I enjoyed it.”
After Holmes retired, Rev. Deborah Laing took over the position.
A church service is held at Parkland Manor and at the Rimbey Hospital Thursdays with ministers from the Rimbey Ministerial Association taking part.