Staff at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre are braced for an influx of COVID-19 patients.
“People are nervous, but people are prepared to do their jobs. The most important thing is the front-line workers have confidence in our management and Alberta Health Services and the plan,” said orthopedic surgeon Dr. Keith Wolstenholme on Friday.
“I think everyone is ready. We’re all worried about what’s coming, but I think we feel confident.”
AHS has postponed all scheduled and elective surgeries to create capacity, repurpose spaces and redeploy front-line staff and resources to other areas.
In the AHS central zone, about 800 surgeries have been postponed, and 7,500 have been postponed province-wide.
AHS has temporarily closed the short stay/day surgery inpatient unit at Red Deer hospital to repurpose the unit for the expected increased demand from COVID-19.
AHS is also looking at moving seniors out of hospitals and into other care settings in the community, or discharging those who are most stable to return home with enhanced supports and additional home care resources.
Other plans include consolidation of specialized rehabilitation services to specific sites to protect vulnerable patients, and redeploying front-line staff and resources to areas of greatest need, as AHS has done with some smaller community laboratory collection sites.
“We recognize that these are difficult, stressful times and that any change in service may be concerning. Our No. 1 priority is protecting the health of Albertans, and in this extraordinary situation, we must take significant steps to do so,” AHS said in a statement.
Wolstenholme said only urgent surgeries are being performed for acute traumas, such as broken hips, emergency conditions such as appendicitis, as well as cancer procedures.
Surgery in Red Deer is at about 30 per cent of what it was prior to the pandemic.
“All urgent surgeries are still getting done, and it’s really just the elective surgeries are being deferred.”
He said AHS was proactive in contacting people who were immediately impacted by the delays, and each surgeon’s office has contacted patients booked further ahead.
“People by and large have been very understanding.”
Some smaller hospitals, such as Olds, where some urgent fracture surgeries are being sent, is helping to free up beds in Red Deer, he said.
“We’re trying to keep people out of Red Deer hospital if possible, so we can save as much capacity for COVID-19 patients.
“It’s to prepare for the unknown. Whenever we do elective surgery, those patients will need a bed afterwards potentially. We’ve emptied two wards pretty well and we’re ready for those patients.”