Skip to content

Red Deer ER uses tarps secured with duct tape to create more space for patients

Red Deer ER crammed beyond capacity
Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre’s emergency department has dealing with overcrowding. (Advocate file photo)

Makeshift treatment spaces — using tarps held up with duct tape — have been the only option available for some patients waiting to consult with a doctor at Red Deer hospital’s emergency department.

Jaelene Tweedle said after arriving at 3:30 a.m. on Dec. 21 and waiting about five hours in the waiting room, she was moved into one of the improvised spaces in the department’s overcrowded treatment area.

“There were metal posts set up with tarps across and duct tape to make all these extra little stalls,” Tweedle said.

There were three chairs where she sat with another patient in the same stall, about 1.8 by 1.8 metres in size, and waited to see the only doctor working in the department.

“To me, it feels like things are at a breaking point, but you don’t want to say that because it can always get worse,” Tweedle said.

Alberta Health Services said that due to the respiratory illness season, Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre’s emergency department continues to see high patient volumes, which is not unusual at this time of year.

“In order to provide patients with some privacy during their visit to the ED, some temporary mobile dividers have been erected where needed,” said AHS in a statement.

“These temporary dividers also help limit transmission of respiratory illnesses. More permanent dividers are on order and will be installed in the ED in the coming days.”


Alberta Health Services is trying to resolve physician shortage in Red Deer hospital’s emergency department

Tweedle said she was incredibly grateful to the staff committed to providing care under conditions that are unfair to patients and staff.

“I feel like the only thing we have going at this point is their absolute commitment to doing their jobs,” she said about the staff she saw being run off their feet.

She worried pushing staff to the point of burnout will mean “that one thread we’re hanging onto is gone.”

Tweedle, who ran for the Alberta NDP in the 2023 provincial election, said since she was sitting right next to another patient, she heard the doctor say that patient’s large kidney stone was confirmed by an ultrasound, but there was little hope of getting surgery soon.

“(The doctor) said at this point I have a few patients upstairs in wards in hospital for over a week just waiting for the procedure to be done. We don’t have the manpower to do it.”


Sylvan Lake’s physician shortage appears to be easing

Alberta NDP said it continues to hear repeated stories of long wait times, short staffing, staff burnout and more.

“Danielle Smith and the UCP promised to end the crisis more than a year ago but we fear it may actually be worsening,” said the NDP in a statement.

“We continue to demand a real plan to support public healthcare workers and to recruit more workers. We believe all Albertans deserve access to public healthcare when and where they need it and free of charge.”

Tweedle, who spent about 12 hours in the emergency department, said health professionals on the front line need to be heard and shown more respect, and more money needs to be invested in health care.

“We are a terribly rich province. We’re currently sitting on an over $5-billion surplus so it’s not that there are not funds.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Susan Zielinski

About the Author: Susan Zielinski

Susan has been with the Red Deer Advocate since 2001. Her reporting has focused on education, social and health issues.
Read more