Red Deer surgeon says hospital needs more beds, operating rooms

Some doctors in Red Deer have concerns about a shortage of beds and operating room capacity in Central Alberta.

'We often cancel elective surgeries because there are no beds in the hospital.'

A recent needs assessment showed the Red Deer Regional Hospital is short three operating rooms and 114 beds, said Dr. Keith Wolstenholme. (Red Deer Regional Health Foundation)

Some doctors in Red Deer have concerns about a shortage of beds and operating room capacity in Central Alberta.

They say the Red Deer Regional Hospital, which is the medical hub for the area, is under stress and patient care is in jeopardy. And they're calling for more funding for infrastructure.

"It's a huge concern," said Dr. Keith Wolstenholme, the chief of orthopedic surgery at Red Deer Regional Hospital. "We often cancel elective surgeries because there are no beds in the hospital. We often postpone relatively urgent or emergent cases because we can't access operating room time."

Dr. Keith Wolstenholme says a shortage of beds and operating rooms puts patient care in jeopardy. (Stephanie Wiebe/CBC)

Short three operating rooms

A recent needs assessment showed the hospital is short three operating rooms and 114 beds, he said.

"There's no question patient care is compromised by the fact we have a mismatch between supply and demand."

Relatively urgent or emergent surgeries are often postponed and patient care is jeopardized, says Wolstenholme.

"We see patients come in all the time who we've seen in clinic with a certain set of problems and by the time we get them into the operating room, their problems have magnified, they've had complications related to waiting for surgery. So absolutely we see that all the time."

Hoping to expand the hospital

Dr. Evan Lundall, the Central Zone medical director with Alberta Health Services, says they are hoping for money from the province to expand the hospital.

"We've planned… a wing to be added if and when the time comes and treasury board has the wherewithal to give us the nod. I hope it's soon."

Next month, Red Deer Regional Hospital will start using its operation rooms more frequently after hours.

Dr. Wolstenholme says unless that program is expanded beyond one year, it will only clear up the additional surgical backlog caused by a flood at the hospital earlier this year.

In the short-term he would like AHS to come up with a plan to move patients waiting for long-term care, as well as those who are less medically fragile, to smaller hospitals in the region to free up more beds.

With files by Jennifer Lee