Alberta ER doctors fear 'catastrophic collapse'

Alberta emergency department doctors are warning of a potentially catastrophic collapse of emergency care if wait times are not reduced immediately.

Seniors awaiting long-term care placed in acute-care beds

Alberta emergency department doctors are warning of a potentially catastrophic collapse of emergency care if wait times are not reduced immediately.

The warning comes in a letter sent two weeks ago by Dr. Paul Parks, the section president of Emergency Medicine for the Alberta Medical Association, to the province's health minister, the premier, other health officials and MLAs.

Parks said placing too many seniors in acute-care beds is preventing proper care of emergency patients. He said non-emergency patients should be moved into hallways or other empty wards to make way for emergency patients

Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky said some hospitals may already be doing that.

"I stress ‘might’ because every hospital will have its own unique circumstance," he said. "Every one of them has their own local authority and they have the ability to do that, if they have the staff handy and available."

Zwozdesky acknowledged far too many acute-care beds are filled with seniors waiting for long-term care or assisted-living beds.

But, he said, the province is already working to relieve pressure in emergency departments. This week he announced more acute-care beds in Edmonton and Calgary. The province continues to add 1,000 new long-term care beds each year, he said.

Zwozdesky said he will meet with Parks, who is on vacation, early next week.