Physicians speak out about need for hospital expansion in Red Deer

Doctors hosting public meeting Feb. 28

A much needed project to expand Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre is absent from a government report on priority infrastructure plans and local doctors say it’s a mistake that Central Albertans need to hear about.

A group of concerned doctors from Red Deer hospital and area are hosting a State of the Hospital Address for the public on Feb. 28, at 4 p.m. at Baymont Inn & Suites. Facebook page — Diagnosis Critical. Your Central Alberta Regional Hospital. — will be up soon with information.

Dr. Kym Jim said Red Deer is a referral centre for Alberta Health Services Central Zone and about half the patients in its hospital at any time are from outside the city.

“It’s far from being just about Red Deer. Put the services where the patients are. Don’t build hospitals in Edmonton and Calgary to serve Central Alberta,” Jim said.

He said Central Albertans are being short-changed.

“The services are deliverable. They just need to put them in Red Deer. There would be no reason not to put them in Red Deer.”

The AHS 2016 Multi-Year Facility Infrastructure Capital Submission, dated October 6, listed 21 priority projects, many of them in Calgary and Edmonton.

A Red Deer needs assessment released December 2015, showed the hospital was already short 96 beds, three operating rooms, and 18 emergency room treatment stretchers.

In 10 years that gap will grow to 194 beds, seven operating rooms, and 33 emergency room treatment/observation stretchers.

“(Red Deer) was on the urgent priority list in 2014 provincially, top of the list. It’s now on the list for future priority projects. We’re being told we have to study it again,” said Red Deer surgeon Dr. Paul Hardy.

He said the Red Deer hospital is often compared to facilities in Medicine Hat, Lethbridge and Fort McMurray, but Red Deer’s is the only regional facility that serves an entire zone.

“We are the fourth busiest in the province behind the Royal Alex, the University and the Foothills (hospitals).”

He said two new obstetrical operating rooms that will open this year in Red Deer, which took about 10 years for approval, will only increase surgical capacity by the equivalent of one cesarean section a day.

“Five years ago we did 12,000 surgeries in Red Deer. We’ve moved about 4,00o surgical procedures to Olds, Innisfail and Stettler and we still do 12,000 operations in Red Deer. So we have gained really no capacity. We’ve just been able to look after the demand better. But in the five years the demand has increased significantly,” Hardy said.

Dr. Shirley Hovan, a Red Deer family doctor, said doctors face the bed crunch at the hospital daily.

“Every day when I’m doing rounds we hear the hospital is on overcapacity. The beds are always full and there’s always pressure to get people discharged as soon as possible because people are waiting every day from emergency to be admitted,” said Hovan who focuses on long-term care.

She said some patients are in beds or lounge chairs in hallways or spaces like patient lounges.

“They’ve got a little corner cordoned off with a curtain around it and that’s your private room. There’s no bathroom there. There’s hardly any privacy. It’s very frustrating for all of us to deal with,” Hovan said.

Dr. Brendan Bunting, a Ponoka family doctor, said Ponoka Hospital and Care Centre relies tremendously on Red Deer hospital.

“When we phone there’s either no bed or there’s no space and the patients are obliged to look at going somewhere else or to wait.”

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