An estimated 32 Red Deer-area residents could be dying unnecessarily from heart attacks each year because there are no local cardiac catheterization services.
Meanwhile, seriously ill patients who can’t easily be admitted to an overcrowded Red Deer hospital are backing up the emergency room, causing long waits.
And urgent surgeries are bumping back elective surgeries due to a lack of operating room space — frustrating patients and surgeons.
Another year is over and the critical shortages at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre continue, said Dr. Keith Wolstenholme, orthopedic surgeon and a member of the Society for Hospital Expansion in Central Alberta.
He noted this “holding pattern is not good.”
On the heart-attack front alone, the society estimates nearly three dozen central Albertans with blocked arteries may not survive being transported to Edmonton or Calgary for life-saving local cardiac catheterization treatment.
Experts believe heart attack deaths and disabilities are 60 per cent higher in central Alberta because there’s no local cath lab, than in the larger centres.
While poor weather and icy conditions have recently been adding to the local hospital’s trauma list, Alberta Health Services and the provincial government are still sitting on the results of two studies that were done to determine the extent of shortages at Red Deer hospital.
The latest needs assessment, as well as a review of cardiac care, have purportedly wrapped up, but the results are not being shared with the public, said Wolstenholme, who urges central Albertans to contact their MLAs and demand that the results of these taxpayer-funded studies be released.
Politicians should understand that the status quo is not OK before the next provincial budget is passed, added the surgeon, who heard the next financial plan for Alberta could be introduced as early as February.
A review done five years ago found serious deficiencies at the facility that serves 400,000 central Albertans.
Wolstenholme said the 2015 report found a shortage of three operating rooms and about 100 hospital beds, as well as the lack of a local cardiac catheterization laboratory to treat blocked arteries.
“We set aside (operating room) time for emergencies, but the volume we are seeing is too much … we have to steal time from the elective cases to make time for the urgent ones,” said Wolstenholme.
He’s tired of having to postpone scheduled knee and hip surgeries at one of Alberta’s busiest hospitals to free up enough operating room space to deal with bone fractures and other urgent cases.
People plan their lives around these elective surgeries and are dismayed to have them rescheduled on a few hours notice, he added.
As winter flu season ramps up, Wolstenholme expects even longer emergency room waits at Red Deer hospital as “we are always running at over capacity” and have trouble freeing up beds for incoming patients.
Central Albertans are encouraged to contact their MLAs and visit the Society for Hospital Expansion in Central Alberta’s website, demandcare.ca.
Wolstenholme said the society is planning another announcement in the new year.