For close to two months some surgeries continue to be diverted from Red Deer’s hospital.
Alberta Health Services said as of 4 p.m. on June 21, a total of 127 general surgery cases have been diverted from Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre since temporary diversion began on April 29 due to staffing and other issues.
Depending on their condition, patients are diverted to other surgical sites in the Central Zone — including Camrose, Rocky Mountain House and Drumheller — or to facilities in Edmonton and Calgary.
AHS said 286 general surgery cases (both urgent and scheduled) have been completed at Red Deer’s hospital during the weeks of diversion.
An additional nine cases were scheduled for Tuesday, in addition to any emergency cases that should arise where transferring the patient would be unsafe.
“AHS is working hard to resume normal surgical services. The situation is being reviewed and evaluated regularly as AHS’ recruitment efforts for key positions like clinical assistants to support the general surgery program continue. New recruits to the clinical assistant positions are currently in the process of completing the necessary licensing requirements before they can begin work at the facility,” said AHS in a statement.
“The diversion will be lifted as soon as possible.”
Premier Jason Kenney said he is concerned whenever there’s an interruption in regular health services.
“I know AHS is trying to backfill where there are particular stress points, including in Red Deer, but in the midterm what we’re really doing is focusing on accelerating recruitment and training of nurses,” said Kenney after participating in the groundbreaking ceremony for the Centre of Excellence in Red Deer on Tuesday.
He said the province has funded more spaces for nursing students colleges and universities, and he just met with the Philippines ambassador about a possible agreement to accelerate credential recognition of Philippine nurses coming to Canada.
More intensive care beds and nursing staff have also been added across Alberta, along with more staffed ambulances.
“Even though we have increased the health budget by a couple of billion dollars, we have more doctors and nurses working than ever before working in Alberta, our system is under stress.
“I just got off a call with all 10 premiers and every province is feeling the same stresses.”
He said medical staff have been burning out due to the pandemic, and staff in the boomer generation are starting to retire more quickly as a result. A lot of people also deferred doctor visits. Those with health concerns saw their conditions worsen, and now they’re presenting in emergency with more complex conditions. There’s also the surgery backlog from COVID.
“We’re doing what we can to address those stresses across the province, including here in central Alberta,” Kenney said.
“Everybody understands we can’t just snap our fingers and solve every health care stress point in this province of four-and a-half-million people with all of these challenges.”