Some general surgeries will be diverted away from the Red Deer Regional Hospital to other healthcare centres in central Alberta as well as Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta Health Services confirmed Saturday.
Beginning on Friday, some surgical patients are being diverted away from the facility, said AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson. He said the move is temporary as AHS attempts to restore normal surgical activity. In the meantime, patients will be sent to surgical sites in other facilities in places such as Camrose, Rocky Mountain House and Drumheller. Some patients will be sent as far as Calgary.
“Patients with scheduled procedures, emergency cases that cannot safely be transferred and on-call coverage for existing inpatients will continue to be provided at (Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre),” said Williamson in an email. “We acknowledge that this will cause some stress and anxiety to some of our surgical patients, however we have exhausted all efforts to avoid this temporary diversion.”
Williamson said only general surgeries will be affected, including conditions such as appendicitis, bowel resections, laparotomies and gallbladder removals.
“These measures are due to a number of factors, including a shortage of clinical assistants who support the General Surgery program,” said Williamson. “The situation will be reviewed and evaluated regularly as recruitment efforts continue and will be lifted as soon as possible.”
An internal memo shared with Postmedia says AHS will be reviewing the diversion on a weekly basis and that they have only taken every measure to avoid the diversion, but that it must be done to maintain patient care. The memo says general surgeons will remain on call to treat patients too unstable to move and to provide a continuation of care.
The provincial government did not respond to requests for comment Saturday afternoon.
David Shepherd, official opposition health critic, said the closures can be directly linked to the UCP government and called on them to present a plan to fix the issue and better fund the provincial healthcare system.
“This just goes to show how bad the chaos is in our healthcare system right now. And I do draw a direct line to this back to the UCP government,” said Shepherd. “Their choices throughout the pandemic to push this system to the limits are only exhausting our healthcare workforce.”
Shepherd said earlier this week, there was a line-up of ambulances outside of the Red Deer hospital waiting to access the emergency room. He said his heart goes out to the residents of Red Deer who are affected by the diversion and that he hopes the measure is short-lived.
“Unfortunately, there are no short-term, immediate solutions here,” said Shepherd. “We can’t produce more health care workers out of thin air.”
The diversion comes at a time when AHS is experiencing bed closures in other parts of central Alberta. The Myron Thompson Health Centre in Sundre temporarily has no obstetric services available while Rocky Mountain House is experiencing a temporary staff shortage leading to a reduction of acute care beds at the community health centre. Several other communities in central and northern Alberta had temporary bed or space reductions on Friday, the AHS website showed Saturday.