Calgary

Alberta has no money to fix Red Deer hospital space crunch, health minister says

Alberta’s health minister says the province is not in a financial position to boost funding for the Red Deer Regional Hospital, a facility some members of medical staff say is so over-stretched that patient care is being compromised.

Sarah Hoffman says NDP inherited about $700M in deferred maintenance from last government

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)

Alberta's health minister says the province is not in a financial position to boost funding for the Red Deer Regional Hospital, a facility some members of medical staff say is so over-stretched that patient care is being compromised.

The hospital's chief of orthopedic surgery, Dr. Keith Wolstenholme, told CBC News elective surgeries are often cancelled and more urgent cases postponed because of a shortage of operating room time.

According to a recent assessment, the facility is short three operating rooms and 114 beds, he said.

But Sarah Hoffman said Friday there are no immediate plans to address the space crunch.

"Certainly the resources we have available to us right now are limited. Everyone, I think, is aware of the challenges we face," she said.

"We inherited about $700 million in deferred maintenance from the last government, and obviously we're in the middle of an economic downturn."

Hoffman noted the province recently spent $9.7 million to boost obstetric services at the Red Deer hospital, including two new operating rooms and three recovery rooms.

Health minister Sarah Hoffman says resources are too limited right now to boost funding for the Red Deer Regional Hospital. (CBC)

"We do want to make sure we're using the operating rooms we do have in the zone to their highest level of capacity," she said.

"We're going to keep looking at ways that we can invest in Red Deer and in other communities."

In an open letter to the minister in June, the Central Zone Medical Staff Association noted the Red Deer hospital is the only Level 2 facility serving an area of roughly 500,000 people.

The organization called on the province to immediately build a 10th operating room and get a building plan in place by 2020 to make the Red Deer facility into a comprehensive regional hospital. 

In the short term, Wolstenholme said AHS should 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.

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