A local surgeon says Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre is overcapacity every day and needs dozens of new beds to address the shortage.
Paul Hardy, a general surgeon, is urging the public to press for more local beds.
The provincial government announced on Tuesday the opening of 464 continuing care spaces across the province. Of those, 28 are in the Alberta Health Services Central Zone: 12 spaces in Drumheller, and four in each of Lacombe, Ponoka, Stettler and Wetaskiwin. None were announced for Red Deer.
Hardy said Red Deer hospital has to operate on its overcapacity protocol “every day.”
“We have over 50 patients in the hospital who don’t need to be in this hospital,” said Hardy. “We’re postponing surgeries and bending over backwards doing surgery on people who don’t yet have a bed but we think may have a bed in two hours when they’re surgery is done, and we’re juggling and moving people all around.
“People wait at home with fractures routinely to get their surgery. They come and have their surgery and then go home.”
The 464 continuing care spaces announced are spaces until now unfunded or unstaffed. They will be open through the allocation of existing resources. Hardy said Red Deer has no unused space to open more beds.
“Our acute care pressure is ongoing until we get a meaningful number of alternative care beds,” said Hardy. “That’s not 12, it’s hundreds. It will relieve pressure.”
Red Deer North MLA Mary Anne Jablonski pointed to the construction of two new facilities, which will each have 60 subsidized continuing care beds, announced last year. She said the reason Red Deer was left out of the announcement was because the government did not want to re-announce the projects, something it has been accused of doing in the past.
Points West Living will operate a 60-bed space on Taylor Drive at 69th Street. Christenson Communities will operate a 60-bed space in Timberstone. Each project will provide 40 supportive living level-four spaces, the highest level for supportive living, and 20 spaces for people with dementia.
However, there is no firm timeline for when these projects will be completed. Jablonski said there may be an announcement on ground breakings later in October. None of those spaces is expected to be open for more than one year.
In a letter to the Advocate, Hardy said it is time for Central Albertans to voice concerns, not only to local MLAs who have tried to get the message through but to provincial leaders.
“There is an opportunity to restore equitable funding to Central Alberta, but only if the population vociferously expresses this message to our government.”