Alberta Health announced this week eight new ICU beds for Central Zone. According to Alberta Health Service, half of these beds opened at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre in June and the four remaining opened last month. (File photo by Advocate staff)

Alberta Health announced this week eight new ICU beds for Central Zone. According to Alberta Health Service, half of these beds opened at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre in June and the four remaining opened last month. (File photo by Advocate staff)

8 more ICU beds now open at Red Deer hospital as staff recruitment efforts continue: AHS

Some gains have been made in the ER and surgical departments, says AHS

Eight new Intensive Care beds are now open at Red Deer hospital as work continues to fill health care vacancies in the emergency and surgical departments.

Alberta Health announced this week eight new ICU beds for Central Zone. According to Alberta Health Service, half of these beds opened at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre in June and the four remaining opened last month.

“These new spaces take the ICU unit’s capacity to 20 beds, which include 18 designated ICU beds and two that are able to be used…. to support critically ill cardiac patients,” stated a spokesperson for AHS.

But on Thursday, the opposition NDP called the out-going UCP premier’s health care legacy a failure. “Jason Kenney accepts no responsibility for the profound crisis he leaves behind in Alberta’s health care system,” said David Shepherd, NDP Health Critic.

Shepherd noted emergency waits at Red Deer hospital surged to 18 hours last weekend, while local surgeons have described their system as “near collapse.”

“There are dozens of hospitals that are partially and fully closed across the province due to staff shortages,” he added.

AHS responded by email that it’s constantly working to increase staffing and improve patient access at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre. “We are making progress, despite ongoing strain on the system caused by the pandemic,” the spokesperson added.

Recruitment for ICU-trained staff continues as well as staff for other departments. AHS stated on Thursday, “We are working to resolve staffing challenges in the (emergency room), including the hiring of new staff.” Eighteen positions were filled in the ER since July, and AHS is in the process of filling a further 14 RN and LPN positions. So far, seven offers have been extended to candidates.

AHS is also working to support the surgical program at RDRHC, as well as filling vacancies and gaps in the on-call schedule.

Job offers have been extended to two new anesthesiologists in the past week, and another five recruits are in various stages of assessments and credentialing.

Two more positions are also in the process of being posted, stated the AHS spokesperson, who noted there are no planned surgical diversions scheduled for Red Deer hospital at this time, “and we are hopeful they will not be necessary.

“Scheduling is often challenging, and it is common to have to fill some open shifts,” added the spokesperson in an email. However, recruitment efforts in anesthesiology and other surgical specialties are being regularly reviewed.

“Extensive work has also been underway …to increase the availability of anesthesia care providers. In early July the temporary diversion of some emergency general surgery cases was resolved at RDRHC following the successful recruitment of six new clinical assistants,” stated AHS.

“While we have been able to utilize nine operating rooms with available staffing and anesthesiology, efforts to fill ongoing vacancies continue.”

AHS is working with a recruitment agency to bring in international medical graduates. It has also implemented an guaranteed income for anesthesiologists, reworked the OR schedule to help reduce night-time on-call levels, provided signing bonuses, reimbursement for relocation, and paid site tours.

AHS is also collaborating with rural surgical sites within Central Zone to help increase their capacity for emergency cases to take some pressure off Red Deer hospital.

Clinical assistants are now part of the anesthesia care team. And AHS is also providing opportunities to bring in general practitioners with training and experience in anesthesia to support the department.

“This challenge is not unique to Red Deer. Healthcare jurisdictions across Canada are facing challenges in recruiting healthcare professionals, including anesthesiologists,” stated AHS on Thursday.

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre