Man faces repeated cancellations for open-heart surgery

A Red Deer man who was booked for open-heart surgery three times at University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton only to have it cancelled each time says he’s not the only heart patient in limbo.

A Red Deer man who was booked for open-heart surgery three times at University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton only to have it cancelled each time says he’s not the only heart patient in limbo.

Harold Chapman, 66, said Alberta has to deal with its doctor shortage.

“There’s only so many (doctors) and I’m not the only one with a bad heart,” Chapman said on Wednesday.

Chapman is waiting for aortic valve replacement. A double bypass may be done at the same time. The surgery will take four to six hours.

He said his cardiologist in Red Deer determined the surgery had to be done and Chapman was immediately lined up for surgery in Edmonton.

His surgery was first scheduled for late July.

His last cancelled surgery was last week. He was prepped for surgery when he was told to go home, he said.

“It ain’t the doctors’ or nurses’ fault. It ain’t the hospital’s fault. It’s our system.”

Chapman said cancellations are very stressful for him and his family.

Surgery is rescheduled now for Monday.

“We’ve got the weekend for emergencies to come up, and this and that, and it could be cancelled again.”

Chapman said he has gone to the U of A hospital six times for tests and consultation and cancelled surgeries.

It’s tough on people who live outside Edmonton who have to find a driver, pay for gasoline and a motel the night before surgery, said the senior who is on a fixed income.

Chapman said he complained to the office of Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne about the surgery cancellations and the response was unsatisfactory.

“They won’t look into anything because they don’t see a problem.”

Meanwhile, money is wasted at Alberta Health Services — like the lavish expenses former AHS chief financial officer Allaudin Merali billed the health system — that could go towards doctors, he said.

Chapman is also concerned about alleged queue jumping and hopes something will come out of the inquiry that will soon be underway.

Queue jumping allegations were sparked by comments in 2009 by former Alberta Health Services CEO Stephen Duckett that political cronies had been able to move up surgery wait lists or get expedited care.

Chapman said the more people talk about their problems with the health-care system, the more likely there will be improvements.

AHS spokesperson Terry Williamson said rescheduling is not due to a doctor shortage.

“It’s purely a priority situation,” Williamson said.

“Sometimes patients need to be rescheduled if higher-priority cases, such as when emergencies or transplants come in.”

He said rescheduling patients is avoided. When it’s necessary, surgery is rescheduled for as soon as possible.

“We do understand the impact that rescheduling has on patients and families. It can be frustrating,” Williamson said.

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