Red Deer Hospital cancels some general surgeries

An internal memo shared with Postmedia says the AHS will review the deviation weekly.

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Some general surgeries will be diverted from Red Deer Regional Hospital to other health centers in central Alberta, as well as Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta Health Services confirmed Saturday.

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As of Friday, some surgical patients are being diverted from the facility, said AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson. He said the change is temporary as the AHS tries to restore normal surgical activity. In the meantime, patients will be sent to surgical centers at other facilities in locations such as Camrose, Rocky Mountain House and Drumheller. Some patients will be sent to Calgary.

“Patients with scheduled procedures, emergency cases that cannot be safely transferred, and on-call coverage for existing inpatients will continue to be provided at (Red Deer Regional Hospital Center),” Williamson said in an email. “We recognize that this will cause some stress and anxiety in some of our surgical patients, however, we have exhausted all efforts to prevent this temporary diversion.”

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Williamson said only general surgery will be affected, including conditions such as appendicitis, bowel resections, laparotomies and gallbladder removals.

“These measures are due to several factors, including the lack of clinical assistants who support the General Surgery program,” Williamson said. “The situation will be reviewed and evaluated regularly as recruitment efforts continue and will be raised as soon as possible.”

An internal memo shared with Postmedia says that the AHS will review the deviation weekly and that they have just taken all steps to prevent the deviation, but that this must be done to maintain patient care. The memo says that general surgeons will remain on call to treat patients too unstable to move and provide continuity of care.

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The provincial government did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday afternoon.

David Shepherd, an opposition health official critic, said the closures could be directly linked to the UCP government and urged them to come up with a plan to correct the problem and better fund the provincial health system.

“It just goes to show how bad the chaos is in our healthcare system right now. And I draw a direct line for that back to the UCP government,” Shepherd said. “Your choices during the pandemic to push this system to its limits are just draining our healthcare workforce.”

Shepherd said earlier this week that there was a line of ambulances outside the Red Deer hospital waiting to access the emergency room. He said his heart goes out to Red Deer residents who are affected by the diversion and that he hopes the measure will be short-lived.

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“Unfortunately, there are no immediate, short-term solutions here,” Shepherd said. “We cannot produce more healthcare workers out of thin air.”

The diversion comes at a time when AHS is facing bed closures in other parts of central Alberta. Myron Thompson Health Center in Sundre temporarily has no obstetric services available, while Rocky Mountain House is experiencing a temporary staff shortage, leading to a reduction in intensive care beds at the community health center. Several other communities in central and northern Alberta had temporary bed or space reductions on Friday, the AHS website showed Saturday.

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