Early Thursday morning central Albertans who went to Red Deer hospital’s emergency department for help faced a possible 19-hour wait.
The estimated wait time on display in the waiting room at 2:21 a.m. was 19 hours and two minutes, which was shared on Twitter.
This has become the new norm
When you see this do you think:
But what were the wait times five hours later (shift change when AH/AHS says things get better)?
But not EVERYONE had to wait that long?
But the “real” emergencies got seen quicker didn’t they?
But this was a glitch? pic.twitter.com/5Ik6MVFgBP
— Parksy (@PfParks) October 20, 2022
A similar Twitter post from 2:02 am on Oct. 2 showed an estimated wait time of 17 hours and 49 minutes at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.
On Friday Alberta Health Services (AHS) repeated that wait times are a snapshot in time, fluctuate throughout the day, and can be longer in the early morning when staffing levels are lower. Wait times generally improve significantly later in the morning.
“We emphasize that wait times posted on our website are an estimate for a non-urgent patient, they do NOT apply to more-serious patients. Any critically sick or injured child is seen promptly, including last night,” said AHS in a statement.
“Some minor treatment spaces were not available at times over the weekend due to staff absences, which contributed to delays in treating less-urgent patients. It is common for the number of available spaces to fluctuate with staff levels.”
NDP health critic David Shepherd said it’s quite clear that Red Deer’s regional hospital is not able to deliver the level of services that the people of Red Deer and surrounding area need.
“Albertans deserve to be able to access the care they need when they need it, whether that’s at 2 a.m, whether that’s at 8 a.m., whether that’s at five in the afternoon,” Shepherd said.
“My heart goes out to the folks of Red Deer and surrounding area. They are going there because they are seeking care. They are in need. They do not have access anywhere else. To get there, and face a potential wait time of 19 hours to receive that care, is just absolutely devastating.”
He said the difficulties that people face accessing care speaks to the deep, deep damage that’s been done to Alberta’s public health system by the UCP government that has pushed the system to its limits throughout the pandemic, and attacked health care workers.
“Now we face a critical staffing shortage and Albertans are paying the price.”
He said Premier Danielle Smith said on Thursday not to worry, but that health care is going to get a little rocky.
“Let’s be clear. It is already incredibly rocky,” said Shepherd who was concerned double digit wait times will get even worse.
He said Smith is looking to remake the health care system in 90 days and is using health care as a target for some of the extremists that helped her get elected instead of trying to improve the system.
“This is a premier coming in with an ideological vendetta that’s going to cost Albertans their access to care and potentially cost lives,” Shepherd said.
AHS said Red Deer’s hospital continues to be very busy with increased patient volumes through the emergency department, and patients presenting with high acuity needs. This is resulting in some long waits in emergency at times, particularly for less-urgent patients.
AHS said capacity across Red Deer’s hospital also remains a challenge. When there are challenges with available bed spaces, the site uses a range of measures to help manage the demand on inpatient beds, similar to those used in other hospitals across the province at peak times.
Alberta’s major acute care hospitals continue to be very busy with increased patient volumes through the emergency department, and patients presenting with high acuity needs. In the first quarter of 2022-23, there were 505,421 emergency department visits provincially, a 15 per cent increase over the same quarter of 2021.