After spending the weekend in a patient lounge in the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre

After spending the weekend in a patient lounge in the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre

Red Deer patients being routed into lounges, hallways

Mary Anne Fast didn’t expect a ‘Taj Mahal experience’ when she was admitted to Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

Mary Anne Fast didn’t expect a ‘Taj Mahal experience’ when she was admitted to Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

But she did expect more privacy.

For three nights, Fast, 59, of Red Deer, slept in a hospital bed in the third-floor visitor lounge where staff, visitors and patients still used the microwave, hospital or pay phone. One person even sat down on one of the couches to watch the big screen television.

Others peeked through the hospital curtains that enclosed the lounge.

“When you’re sick, the last thing you want is to be on display to everybody. These hospital gowns are sufficient, but they’re not very conducive to privacy. You are exposed a lot of the time,” Fast said on Monday.

“I can hardly wait until they announce visiting hours are now over (at 8 p.m.).”

Fast was admitted to hospital on Nov. 7 and spent four days sharing a hospital room before she was moved to the lounge.

She was returned to a regular hospital room on Monday morning, shortly after she called the Advocate, and another patient was moved into the lounge.

Fast was admitted to hospital with her left foot so swollen and painful that it was difficult to walk.

Test results are expected back on Wednesday and she hopes to be on the appropriate medication and out of hospital by next week at the latest.

Since December 2010, Alberta Health Services has used dedicated lounge chairs or beds in hospitals when emergency departments are at overcapacity.

When the plan is triggered, existing patients who can be discharged are either moved to the chairs or beds, sent to nearby hospitals or long-term care facilities, or sent home with home care support to make room for emergency patients.

Fast said nurses were on the run looking after patients so it wasn’t always easy for them to hear the bell she used in the lounge when she needed medication, a hot blanket, or help to get out of bed to get into a wheelchair to go a washroom down the hall.

Alberta Health Services does not discuss specific patients.

But Sylvia Barron, the hospital’s director of emergency and critical care, said it’s still the intent for overcapacity space to be used by patients nearing discharge.

“There might not be a patient that is imminently ready for discharge, but those are the types of patients we’re looking for,” Barron said.

“What nurses do is assess all patients in the unit and the one they think best meets the ability to move to that particular location, wherever it happens to be on the unit, they will make the decision and move them.”

Patients not eligible to be placed in overcapacity space include those requiring intensive care or a ventilator, those with respiratory illness, require isolation, close to death, and others in need of more constant care.

The hospital has at least eight overcapacity beds or lounge chairs typically located in lounges, hallways, and conference rooms.

Rob Swanson, director of medical, surgery and inpatient services, said AHS tries to be as respectful as possible to patient privacy and would not have “undo traffic moving through that area.”

“It’s definitely not a long-term location and we do our best to ensure that people do get the most appropriate room for their care,” Swanson said.

Fast said she realizes overcapacity is a difficult problem to solve, but making patients uncomfortable in overcapacity spaces is not the answer.

“The hospital’s top staff is going to tell you it’s because the hospital is full. But it’s really because they want their numbers to look good when it comes to how fast people are getting in and out of emergency,” Fast said.

She said Albertans need to know what is really going on in its hospitals.

“It’s all to make government look good. It’s all about getting re-elected. It’s not about the patients.”

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