Fractures from icy falls have skyrocketed in the past two weeks, forcing delays in surgery for those patients at Red Deer hospital.
“Anything you could think of that you could break, people are breaking it. The vast majority are patients slipping on the ice,” said orthopedic surgeon Dr. Keith Wolstenholme.
He said patients are coming in with hip, leg, upper arm, wrist and shinbone fractures.
“We’ve been in the position where we’ve had to cancel some elective patients because our trauma list is so busy. We’re working late into the evening and night. Patients are unfortunately waiting days and days to get surgery.”
He said Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre has a tough time handling trauma patients at the best of times because of constant capacity issues, so the hospital is not doing a great job of handling the increase in surgery patients.
“When you have between 20 and 30 orthopedic patients on the list, there’s no way you’re providing good quality, timely care.”
He said Tuesday, there were 28 orthopedic trauma patients on the surgery list, which equals about seven days work. On Thursday morning, the list had 21 patients, and the number would only increase as bad weather continued throughout the day.
Two nights ago, the surgeon said he admitted at man with an upper arm fracture.
“He probably won’t get surgery for another two days because he’s so far down that list. That patient sits in the hospital for four days when he really should be in hospital for one day.
“Our hospital is full right now of people waiting for surgery.”
Alberta Health Services confirmed that in the past few days, the hospital has had about 10 more patients requiring surgery due to falls.
Wolstenholme said most surgery patients end up fasting three or four days before they get their turn in the operating room. It’s unlikely that they are sent to wait at rural hospitals, because patients need to be moved quickly into the operating room when it is their time.
Depending how long they need to stay in hospital after surgery, they may be moved to rural hospitals to convalesce.
More often, it is seniors who suffer winter-related fractures, but young, healthy people also slip and fracture bones, he said.
“We’re quite weather dependent, and the icy season is the worst season. Given Red Deer weather, we may be looking at six more months as this,” Wolstenholme said.
Last year in AHS’s central zone, there were 490 visits to emergency departments, or urgent care centres, by people 65 and older due to falls involving snow and ice.
For those 19 and younger, there were 325 visits; 547 visits for ages 20 to 39; and 968 for ages 40 to 64.