There will be two more operating room closures at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton due to staffing issues in the next week, Alberta Health Services announced on Wednesday.
Four operating rooms in the Orthopedic Surgery Centre (OSC) will be temporarily closed from Aug. 24-27 and then again from Aug. 31- Sept. 3.
At first, 83 scheduled, elective surgeries were being postponed. In an update Wednesday afternoon, AHS said the orthopedics team was able to secure additional post-op clinical coverage, allowing them to book two additional days of orthopedic surgeries in available operating rooms outside the OSC.
“All affected patients have been notified and are being re-scheduled as soon as possible,” AHS tweeted. “Surgeries at the OSC will resume with regular coverage on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021.”
Staff affected by the OSC OR closures are being reallocated to increase access to other surgeries, AHS said.
“This means additional patients who require surgery for a variety of reasons such as cancer, ophthalmology and bariatrics will have their surgeries completed.”
This is the second time physician coverage for post-surgical care affected the OSC’s ability to perform surgeries this month. On Aug. 16, AHS announced four rooms were closing for 72 hours because of a staffing shortage, affecting 53 cases.
“That’s 156 Albertans whose surgeries have now been cancelled and will be delayed, folks that have potentially waited months through the COVID pandemic,” NDP health critic David Shepherd said.
He added there are 26 Alberta communities that currently have bed closures due to staffing shortages.
“With our health-care system under enormous strain and the situation deteriorating, (Health Minister) Tyler Shandro must come out of hiding and present his plan now that he is back from vacation,” Shepherd said.
AHS said the shortage earlier this month was due to a variety of reasons, including staff vacation and several clinical assistants and associations who usually provide post-surgical care recruited due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is part of a bigger issue of our whole health-care system.
“The whole health-care system is stressed and stretched under the circumstances of having to deal with this pandemic for as long as it’s gone on and it continues to go on,” Dr. Curtis Johnston, the deputy medical director for the Edmonton zone, said in an update on Aug. 17.
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The main operating room schedule will not be affected by the upcoming closures, AHS said.
According to AHS, the orthopedic team at the Royal Alex has already performed more surgeries over the past five months than during the same period over the previous three years.
Since April, the OSC has completed 1,364 surgeries and is targeting to complete 3,759 cases this year, a 37 per cent increase over pre-COVID volumes.
The Opposition is also calling on the government to take action to combat rising case numbers, hospitalizations and ICU admissions, as well as released the data the UCP said informed its decision to lift further COVID-19 testing, tracing and isolation rules.
“Jason Kenney declared the pandemic over, but he was clearly wrong,” said Shepherd. “The UCP has to show up, admit their mistakes, release the modelling that was promised weeks ago, and present a credible plan to address rising cases and hospitalizations.”
“We see leaders in other jurisdictions stepping up, putting new policies in place, supporting their local businesses, supporting their local school boards, supporting individuals who are trying to plan and prepare for their fall.
“The government of Alberta, meanwhile, is abdicating its responsibility, making everybody else do the work they should be doing. It is not the job of the Alberta public to be public health experts in making these decisions,” Shepherd said. “We need leadership from our government.”
Alberta and Saskatchewan said they are not planning to follow broad mask mandates announced this week by neighbouring western provinces.
Manitoba and British Columbia are reintroducing mask rules to arrest a rise in COVID-19 case numbers.
Both Alberta and Saskatchewan said that vaccination is the best, most effective route out of the pandemic and continue to urge residents who have not done so to get the two-jab protection.
Alberta Health spokesman Steve Buick noted that mask rules still apply in health-care settings and on public transit in the province.
Manitoba is requiring masks again in all indoor public places, including schools, while also mandating mandatory vaccinations for front-line provincial employees who work with vulnerable populations.
B.C. has brought back an order requiring people to wear masks in all indoor spaces, such as malls, grocery stores and on public transit.
— With files from The Canadian Press and Emily Mertz, Global News