Red Deer orthopedic surgeon Dr. Bryce Henderson says a lack of resources in the Red Deer region is causing an undue backlog of patients requiring surgery. Patient volumes increase over the weekends and when conditions are icy and doctors in the region see more fracture and trauma patients.

Red Deer orthopedic surgeon Dr. Bryce Henderson says a lack of resources in the Red Deer region is causing an undue backlog of patients requiring surgery. Patient volumes increase over the weekends and when conditions are icy and doctors in the region see more fracture and trauma patients.

Demand outstrips supply, says frustrated surgeon

A Red Deer orthopedic surgeon is frustrated about the space crunch and inability to handle surgeries at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

A Red Deer orthopedic surgeon is frustrated about the space crunch and inability to handle surgeries at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

Dr. Bryce Henderson said on Thursday that Central Alberta is growing and the Red Deer hospital is chronically under-resourced, forcing patients to wait for surgeries.

Henderson said the goal is 48 hours for a hip fracture, which is generally achievable. But whenever there is an ice storm, long weekend or conditions that put people more at risk for trauma and fractures, the wait can be longer. “The demand for health care and surgical services outstrips the supply,” said Henderson.

Smaller cases have been referred to hospitals in Olds and Innisfail, he said.

“But we still need more capacity for larger cases,” said Henderson. “Typically we have one room to fix fractures and do emergency cases in the evening, servicing 400,000 people in our zone.”

Henderson said it seems like an uphill battle because the region is growing rapidly.

He said more resources and operating rooms for emergency and elective surgeries are needed.

But Dr. Evan Lundall, zone medical director, Central Zone, said Alberta Health Services is increasing access to high priority surgeries, including for hips and knees, which have seen wait times come down.

“We saw a significant increase in the volumes of hip and knee surgeries during the past three years with more than 1,800 additional hip and knee procedures,” said Lundall, responding by email. “From 2011-12 to 2012-13, we saw a decrease in wait times for hip and knee surgeries. Hip surgery wait times went from 39.8 weeks to 36.3 weeks, a decrease of nine per cent. Knee surgery wait times went from 48.0 weeks to 40.9 weeks, a decrease of almost 15 per cent.”

He said there is an increasing demand for surgical services in the Central Zone and AHS has taken steps to address this, such as relocating some procedures to Innisfail and Olds. He said AHS continues to take action to improve access to hip and knee surgeries with new and improved referral programs, more efficient use of operating rooms and prevention strategies for those at risk of fractures.

“AHS physicians, staff and administrators are working extremely hard and are doing all they can to bring wait times down,” said Lundall. “It is an issue we are aware of and constantly working on. We have seen some success, and will continue to see some success.”

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com