Long wait times at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre’s emergency department is a cause for concern, says the health critic for Alberta’s NDP.
A photo showing a 14-hour wait time at the hospital’s ER from this past weekend has been circulating across social media recently.
“At the Red Deer hospital we had 14 ambulances lined up outside not that long ago and now we have 14-hour waits in the ER. That’s not the kind of health care Albertans need or deserve,” NDP health critic David Shepherd told The Advocate Thursday.
“Sadly this seems to continue to be the case due to a shortage of healthcare workers.”
Alberta Health Services said the emergency department was “exceptionally busy” over the long weekend, which resulted in long waits, especially for less-urgent patients.
“Summer long weekends are often very busy and pose extra challenges for staffing. Some minor treatment spaces were not available on Sunday 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,” said AHS.
“Patient volumes and wait times are highly variable. As of 2 p.m. on Monday, for example, the estimated wait time in Red Deer was about (three and a half) hours; most other large urban emergency departments across the provinces had slightly shorter waits at the time.”
In addition to increased volumes in Emergency, capacity across the hospital was challenged over the weekend, said AHS.
“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,” the health authority said.
“They include discharging patients as soon as possible with appropriate home supports, managing surgery patients waiting at home instead of in hospital as appropriate, and balancing admissions with other sites in the Zone based on available capacity.”
Last month Alberta’s NDP announced, if elected, it would repeal Bill 21. The government website states the bill, which the United Conservative Party passed in 2019, applies consistent penalties to all health professionals regulated under the Health Professions Act for findings of sexual abuse or sexual misconduct. But the NDP say this bill allows the minister of health to “tear up any contract with doctors on a whim.”
“When I’ve talked to doctors, including doctors in Red Deer, who have been working to recruit anesthesiologists and others to provide the support they need to provide the care that’s needed, that has been one of the biggest obstacles,” said Shepherd.
“They’ve had doctors pretty much on the hook and ready to move here, but that has been the clincher. Those doctors have chosen to go to the U.S., they’ve chosen to go to B.C. or other places where they have a binding deal,” he said.
There are currently 30-plus healthcare centres across Alberta partially closed, including Rimbey, Rocky Mountain House, Sundre and Three Hills. Additionally, the Stettler Hospital and Care Centre’s emergency department was temporally closed during the day Thursday due to an unexpected gap in coverage.
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