For the second time in less than a week, Alberta Health Services has been forced by a chronic staff shortage to cancel all elective orthopedic surgeries at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton.
Alberta Health Services (AHS) has confirmed that four operating rooms at the hospital’s orthopedic surgery center will be closed August 24-27 and August 31-September 3 due to a continuing shortage of hospital doctors who provide post-operative care to patients.
The cancellations concern 83 patients. This is in addition to the cancellation of 53 surgeries a week ago, also due to a shortage of hospital workers.
Thousands of people in Alberta are on waiting lists for elective orthopedic surgery. Cancellations weigh on some.
Hedy Peterson, 65, has been waiting for knee replacement for almost four years. In the meantime, her left hip has deteriorated and she now needs hip replacement surgery.
Surgeons were due to decide this week whether to replace his knee or hip first during surgery originally scheduled for Friday. But while shopping on August 19, Peterson received a call from AHS canceling her surgery.
“She came home in tears,” her daughter Sara Peterson said in an interview. “She was really devastated.”
Sara said her mother couldn’t walk without a walker, couldn’t climb stairs, and couldn’t sleep due to pain in her hip.
“Her quality of life is very, very poor,” said Sara, adding that health authorities could not provide any information on when her mother’s operation might be postponed.
“They know as much as we do.”
In an emailed statement to CBC News, AHS said the Center for Orthopedic Surgery had “already performed more orthopedic surgeries in the past five months than in the same period in the previous three years.”
The statement also said that nurses at the surgery center have been transferred to the regular operating room department within the hospital to increase access to further surgeries for other illnesses such as cancer.
Cancellations have a domino effect
Sources say the Royal Alex is no longer taking referrals for orthopedic surgery, which has caused a domino effect throughout the system as other already overwhelmed hospitals must absorb an increased load of patients from the Edmonton area and the northern Alberta.
Even before Royal Alex’s cancellations, sources say the University of Alberta hospital had a wait of up to two days for emergency orthopedic or trauma surgery.
This means, for example, that a person with a broken leg as a result of a car accident could be given pain relievers and sometimes even stay home while waiting for surgery.
CBC News reported on Friday that AHS invoked an emergency clause in its contract with nurses that allows AHS to force nurses to work mandatory overtime, cancel vacations and transfer them to other hospitals .
AHS said three Edmonton-area hospitals used emergency arrangements, including mandatory overtime, last weekend to ensure appropriate staffing levels. But he said no vacation was canceled unless nurses agreed.
“The reality is, things just get out of hand and there doesn’t seem to be anyone in charge,” said David Harrigan, director of labor relations at United Nurses of Alberta.
“The Minister of Health went underground,” Harrigan said. “The Prime Minister has gone into hiding. AHS continues to say publicly that all is well and that it seems to be getting worse by the day.”
AHS and UNA are currently in contract negotiations in which AHS seeks to reduce nurses’ wages.
Premier Jason Kenney and Health Minister Tyler Shandro were on vacation until recently and have not commented on the rising tide of COVID-19 infections and the stress on the province’s healthcare system.
Health care workers warn of burnout and burnout
Nurses, doctors, EMS staff and other frontline workers have warned of burnout and burnout due to the increased strain on the healthcare system caused by what they say they are the misguided premature lifting of pandemic restrictions in July.
Last week, doctors representing 450 emergency department physicians wrote a letter to AHS expressing “confusion and alarm” over what they saw as AHS ‘minimization of bed closures and staff shortages. . They called for immediate action to address overwhelmed and understaffed emergency rooms.
At the Calgary Stampede in July, Kenney, with support from Shandro, announced the pandemic was over while lifting nearly all pandemic restrictions, including mandatory isolation for those infected.
Critics, including epidemiologists, have warned the government that removing pandemic restrictions will result in a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections.
Opposition NDP accuses Shandro and Kenney of failing to show leadership and fail to report as COVID-19 infection rates and hospitalizations continue to climb to levels not seen since spring .
NDP health critic David Shepherd said the most recent surgery cancellations show that public statements by the Kenney government downplaying the gravity of the situation “have been totally untrue.
“They keep telling the people of Alberta that everything is great,” Shepherd said.
“This is actually not the case,” he said. “And here we have more hard evidence of a massive cancellation of major surgeries at the Royal Alex Hospital.”
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