February 10, 2017 8:41 pm
Updated: February 10, 2017 9:28 pm

Red Deer physicians fear patient care is suffering in central Alberta

WATCH ABOVE: A group of Red Deer physicians is taking Alberta Health Services to task for delaying badly needed upgrades to the regional hospital. As Tom Vernon explains, the doctors are speaking out because they feel patient care is suffering.

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Physicians in central Alberta are taking Alberta Health Services to task for stalling on an expansion project for the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

A 2015 needs assessment done by AHS found the hospital needs 96 more inpatient beds, 18 more beds in the emergency department, along with three more operating rooms.

“We’re bursting at the seams,” said Dr. Keith Wolstenholme, the chief of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery in Red Deer.

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He said there are instances of patients waiting days for a bed in the emergency ward, and surgeries regularly have to be cancelled.

“If it’s an elective patient waiting for a hip or a knee replacement, for example, they stand a good chance of having their surgery cancelled because there’s no bed to take them afterwards,” Wolstenholme said.

“I deal a lot with cancer, and 50 to 60 per cent of our cancers are done outside of the recommended guideline in terms of time frame,” added Dr. Glen Vajcner, a general surgeon at the hospital.

These needs have long been known to AHS, and the expansion project was once one of the top infrastructure priorities, but last year it was dropped to future project status.

“We were third in 2014,” Wolstenholme said. “Last year, 2016, we were off the list altogether, and it’s inexcusable.”

AHS said it is aware of the needs in the central Alberta region, but before the project can be moved forward, a long-range service plan needs to be put together.

“That information, as we engage with communities on the long-range plan for services, it will help inform what services would be required,” said Brian Stevenson, the chief program officer for capital management at AHS.

Stevenson added maintenance dollars have been put into the hospital, and nearly $10 million has been spent to expand two operating rooms for the maternal health program.

The doctors feel the time for studying the issue is done, and hope going public will spur on some action. They have organized a public meeting to be held in Red Deer on Feb. 28t at the Baymont Inn and Suites.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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