A Red Deer woman says her 79-year-old mother, who fell and broke her ankle, waited 24 hours with paramedics at Red Deer’s emergency department earlier this week.
“It was insane. At one point there were 56 other patients,” said the daughter about the area where EMS staff waited with patients brought in by ambulance.
She said the waiting room was also full of people, and at one point the estimated wait time to see a doctor was more than 17 hours. The ER was “absolute chaos.”
“I’m not slamming the hospital staff. These people are run off their feet. They’re all doing the best they can. Emergency is clearly overwhelmed.
“They’re trying to prioritize the best they can, but it’s a huge problem. They just lack capacity.”
She said when her mother fell at about noon on Monday outside their home it took 25 minutes for an ambulance to arrive from Sylvan Lake — the nearest available ambulance — which was also distressing.
She said once at the hospital, updates on her mother were difficult to get, and at one point inaccurate because staff were still learning how to access information with the new province-wide, online, record system Connect Care.
Her mother was seen by a doctor and taken for x-rays, but remained with EMS until about 1 p.m. on Tuesday when she was moved into another area of the ER. People there looked exhausted, with some laying on the beds with their sick or injured relatives, she said.
“It was just heartbreaking. You could tell they’d been there for hours. You could see the desperation in people’s eyes.”
About three hours later her mother was transferred to a hospital bed on the orthopedic ward, and on Wednesday at noon she was taken into surgery.
The daughter said she was told that her mother had one of the few empty beds at the hospital, and was worried that resources were being centralized in Edmonton and Calgary while central Alberta patients face lengthy waits that could compromise their health, or worse.
“I think they’re going to have dire consequences if they keep going down this road.”
Alberta Health Services (AHS) could not comment on a specific case due to patient confidentiality, but said that, “it is not accurate to suggest that they waited 15 hours for care, or that they waited with EMS for 24 hours.”
“Patients who are receiving care in an emergency department while waiting to be admitted are still being carefully looked after by our care teams. It is important for people to know that the emergency department remains open to provide care to anyone who needs it,” AHS said in a statement.
“We acknowledge that in some cases, wait-times are too long, and we apologize to anyone who has experienced a lengthy wait for care and treatment.”
AHS said staff and physicians are doing their best to maintain lines of communication with the family members of those in hospital, and will be working with hospital teams to improve communication and updates with families going forward.
Major urban hospitals are extremely busy, and Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre is no exception, AHS said.
“The emergency department at RDRHC is experiencing increased patient volumes through the emergency department. We are also seeing sicker patients who need more complex care. This is happening in jurisdictions across Canada and around the world, as we see increased respiratory illness and more patients with more severe illness.”
AHS said capacity across Red Deer hospital has also seen an increase.
“We have mobilized our Over Capacity Protocol, including reviewing numbers on our inpatient units, and transferring patients that no longer need the level of care we provide at our regional centre to other hospitals within the zone.”
NDP leader Rachel Notley said this patient’s experience illustrates the ambulance and ER resource crisis in Red Deer.
“We were promised a much more detailed plan to fix the ambulance crisis some time ago. There are clear recommendations that have been made by folks on the frontline which we have not seen the UCP government act on,” Notley said.
“(The former NDP government) had introduced a program that hires, specifically, people to relieve the paramedics of their patients when they came into the ER, to watch over those patients when they were in the ER, so that the paramedics can get back on the road.”
She said when it comes to Red Deer, the province needs to do everything it can to increase staffing and move quickly to expand the hospital. But the UCP government is doing the opposite of what is needed to bring and keep frontline health carehealthcareproviders to provide the emergency care that this Red Deer patient needed.
“What we need is a government that is laser-focused on fixing the frontline public health care received by Albertans across this province, not instead, dabbling in conspiracy theories and plans to blow up the whole system,” Notley said.