It took an Edmonton doctor minutes to insert a stent into one of Ryan Gillies’ arteries.
Getting to that point, took almost four days.
Gillies’ unwelcome introduction to the gaps in Central Alberta health care began last Friday when a general discomfort similar to indigestion gave way to pain in his arm and a trip to Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre’s emergency unit.
Within minutes, he was whisked away and put into an intensive care bed and diagnosed with a heart attack. He would not leave Red Deer until Tuesday, when he was taken to Royal Alexandra Hospital to have the stent inserted.
Gillies said there has got to be a better way.
“When you to get (stent insertion) done it’s a 20-minute procedure,” said the Red Deer father-of-four.
While being cared for he heard stories from ambulance workers and Edmonton hospital staff about unsustainable workloads.
“If it’s that taxing on the staff why not open up a place in Red Deer to alleviate some of the pressure on those people?” he said.
Four others needing the same procedure were in Red Deer’s hospital with him last weekend, all taking up expensive hospital beds, waiting to be taken to Edmonton or Calgary.
“Four days I’m occupying that (intensive care unit) bed. I didn’t need to be in that bed.”
Gillies said being stuck in a bed in Red Deer for days was frustrating. His sleep was constantly interrupted as blood samples were drawn and other things checked.
“They probably would have done (the stent) if they had it in Red Deer that (Friday) evening,” he said. “I could have been home, probably, Sunday.
“Two days more of recovery time. Two days more to spend with my children.”
Central Alberta’s medical community is well aware of the region’s shortcomings. Local medical professionals have called on the province to develop comprehensive echocardiography, cardiac catheterization and angioplasty services in Red Deer’s hospital.
In 2016, local doctors reported that not being able to treat blocked arteries locally, and the long transfer times for the treatment elsewhere, mean Central Albertans have a 60 per cent higher rate of death or disability than people in Calgary or Edmonton.
After start-up costs, it would not cost any more to treat patients in Red Deer than it does in Calgary and Edmonton, and it would save on transportation costs, health care professionals argue.
Gillies, 44, also believes the money that was spent keeping him in bed for Red Deer for extra days would be offset by the savings of having the treatment available locally.
“I’m pretty sure they could pay for it in no time,” said the construction consultant with a pipeline company.
Gillies’ wife, Erin, said since their scare they have heard from many people, directly or through Facebook, who have had similar experiences.
“Story upon story upon story. ‘This happened to my mum, this happened to my grandma …’
Nursing friends have also told her how overloaded Red Deer’s hospital is.
Both Gillies hope that by sharing their story the decision-makers will be convinced of the local need for more cardiac services.