It was standing room only at a public meeting on Tuesday to discuss the urgent need to expand Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.
About 250 people packed in to hear from concerned doctors who organized the 4 p.m. meeting they called a State of the Hospital Address. Due to the demand, the meeting was repeated at 5:30 p.m. and attracted about 150 more.
Dr. Kym Jim said while the number of people who came out was amazing, it was not surprising because people have experienced the deficits in care.
“People care that this problem is happening and it’s really a long-term problem that has gotten us here,” Jim said after the first meeting held at Baymont Inn & Suites.
He said doctors started the campaign to alert the public after the expansion plan for the Red Deer hospital fell off Alberta Health Services’ 2016 infrastructure priority list.
It was the “real final straw that broke the camel’s back,” he said.
“As a result of this the citizens of Central Alberta don’t get the standard of care that they should get and a lot of services they have to travel for.”
He said the care that the hospital can deliver is good, but many aspects of care can’t be delivered that are now considered basic care today.
“If you turned back the clock 20 years those may have been very high end type care. Care that could only be delivered in Edmonton and Calgary. But the bottom line is many aspects of this care can be delivered in Central Alberta. This is where the population is and we simply don’t have those services.”
Consistently one of the five busiest hospitals in Alberta, Red Deer hospital is short 96 beds, three operating rooms, and 18 emergency room treatment stretchers. Without expansion, the need for operating rooms, beds and emergency treatment space will quickly multiple.
A cardiac catheterization laboratory is among the services doctors are calling for. In October doctors reported that without local access to treat blocked arteries, and the long transfer times for the treatment elsewhere, it means Central Albertans have a 60 per cent higher rate of death or disability than people in Calgary or Edmonton.
“We’re not taking no. As people can can see by the turnout here today, I don’t think the citizens of Central Alberta will take no for an answer,” Jim said.
Coun. Ken Johnston, whose wife Isabelle had a major heart attack in November, said he worried she was going to be one of the 60 per cent who don’t survive.
With no cardiac cath lab, she was flown by STARS air ambulance to Foothills Hospital in Calgary.
“As we all know in cardiac failure, time is of the essence. To add time of transport, to add time without a full cardiac team and to add time into the equation further damages the heart, and further elevates the risk of not surviving. Simple as that,” said Johston who thanked the doctors for having the courage to speak out.
His wife was in Foothills’ intensive care unit for two weeks before returning to Red Deer where she stayed 65 more days in ICU.
“Today her health is fragile and she remains hospitalized but we remain hopeful she will return home soon.”
Meanwhile, he remembered the emotional trauma of other families and patients.
“Equally as difficult to watch, and we watched it through the big glass windows of the ICU every day, was the faces and emotions of our doctors and nurses who had to deliver the same message to their families — nothing more we can do here. Nothing more we can do here. We have to move your son, your daughter, your uncle, your dad, your mother,” Johnston said.
Marianne Brand, of Red Deer, told the crowd that she had to wait 21 months before she could get the surgery to rid her body of severe pain from hyperthyroidism.
“We had surgeons in Red Deer that could perform the operation, but because they weren’t approved to do a certain test, they couldn’t. Hyperthyroidism is a common side effect of renal failure and currently there are about a dozen people in Red Deer alone waiting for the surgery,” Brand said.
Central Albertans were urged to contact their MLAs, Health Minister Sarah Hoffman and Premier Rachel Notley and use social media to push for change. Doctors are also requesting a meeting with Hoffman.
A non-profit society — Friends of Central Alberta Health Care — is being developed. A public rally will be held June 3, location to be announced.
For more information visit Facebook page — Diagnosis Critical. Your Central Alberta Regional Hospital.