General surgery patients diverted from Red Deer hospital to other facilities

Some patients needing general surgeries will be diverted from the Red Deer hospital to other facilities in central Alberta or even to Edmonton or Calgary, Alberta Health Services said.

Kerry Williamson, AHS spokesperson, told CTV News that the diversion began Friday afternoon due to a “number” of factors, including a lack of clinical assistants that support general surgeries at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

In a statement, Williamson said that the situation will be “regularly” reviewed and evaluated, with the goal of patient diversions from Red Deer to be “lifted as soon as possible.”

“This is a temporary measure,” Williamson said. “AHS is working hard to resume normal surgical services at the (Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre) site.”

On-call coverage for existing inpatients will continue to be provided in Red Deer and emergency cases that cannot be transferred safely, Williamson added.

“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,” the AHS spokesperson said.

According to Williamson, procedures affected include bowel resections, appendicitis, laparotomies, and gallbladder removals. Some of the transferred patients have been taken to Camrose, Rocky Mountain House, and Drumheller.

David Shepherd, NDP health critic, said in a statement that the surgery diversion is just the latest healthcare system failure for patients in Red Deer.

“Earlier this week, ambulances lined up 14 deep in the Red Deer hospital parking lot waiting to reach emergency care,” Shepherd said. “Now there is no capacity for surgeries in Alberta’s third-largest city.”

Other central Alberta community healthcare centres are also facing space reductions or closures.

Drumheller’s operating room has a “gap in coverage” due to a lack of physicians that AHS says is temporary.

In Hanna, seven out of 17 acute care beds have been temporarily closed due to staff shortages.

The Two Hills Emergency Department has had no overnight on-site physician coverage on weekdays since April 14, forcing the emergency room to close from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. Monday to Thursday. According to AHS, coverage is expected to resume on May 2.

Rocky Mountain House, Sundre, Provost, Rimbey, and Drayton Valley are also experiencing “temporary” bed or space reductions.

Shepherd called on the province to create a plan to ensure “reliable” access to healthcare and an end to “unacceptable” surgery cancellations.

“This is another absolute failure of leadership from the UCP who continue to damage the healthcare Alberta families rely on,” he added. 

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