An aerial view of Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre. (Contributed)

An aerial view of Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre. (Contributed)

Society for Hospital Expansion in Central Alberta to host public rally on May 6

More anesthesiologists needed despite new hires

The Society for Hospital Expansion in Central Alberta is holding a public rally at noon on May 6 at Red Deer City Hall Park to push for the urgent redevelopment of Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

A $1.8-billion expansion project at the hospital is just entering the design phase and construction won’t be complete until 2030-31. SHECA wants construction to be sped up and a comprehensive plan for how the hospital is supposed to function over the next five to 10 years to stop patient care from eroding even more than it has.

SHECA member Dr. Kym Jim said there are no timelines for any of the crucial improvements that doctors identified about a decade ago at Alberta’s busiest hospital outside of Edmonton and Calgary.

“The only way we can make up for the lost ground is if this project is prioritized as the number one priority project for Alberta Health Services and necessary resources are put into place to get this done and that we have a transition plan,” Jim said.

“This project cannot be allowed to languish and it has to be expedited.”

In late February, the 2023 provincial budget put $320.6 million over three years towards the redevelopment. About a week later SHECA held a public town hall event that attracted a large, concerned crowd.


‘Everybody has a stake in this’: Patient care at Red Deer hospital is declining and can’t wait eight years for expansion

Jim said there have been a few recent improvements but things have gotten out of hand over many years without the necessary services and infrastructure. Patients continue to be sent elsewhere who should be treated in Red Deer.

The state of the hospital also doesn’t help with staff recruitment, he added.

“They are challenged to choose Red Deer as a spot right now because we just don’t have all the things we should have, all the things they expect to have for services for the kind of work that they do.”

Alberta Health Services recently announced two more anesthesiologists have been hired at the hospital to bring the total number of anesthesiologists working in Red Deer to 15.

Local surgeon Dr. Keith Wolstenholme said the new recruits are appreciated, but his anesthesia colleagues say the hospital is still short eight to 10 anesthesiologists.

“We continue to have expected surgical cancellations in May and June,” Wolstenholme said.

He said the hospital continues to have service disruptions due to lack of specialists regularly for cardiology, gastroenterology and internal medicine. General surgery is having a difficult time recruiting needed new surgeons, and there’s also a shortage of hospitalists (hospital-based family medicine specialists).


New anesthesiologists practising at Red Deer hospital

Jim said the hour-long rally is the chance for Red Deerians and Central Albertans to demonstrate their deep concerns about the condition of their hospital to Alberta Health, Alberta Health Services, and candidates in the May 29 provincial election.

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