All elective orthopedic surgeries at the Royal Alexandra Hospital (RAH) in Edmonton have been suspended for three days from Monday, due to a shortage of doctors treating patients after surgery.
An internal Alberta Health Services (AHS) email from August 14 informed surgeons that the situation at the hospital has become “critical” due to minimum daytime coverage for hospitalists, also known as clinical associates. These are doctors who provide post-surgical care.
“In addition, coverage for overnight clinical assistants will be limited starting Wednesday, leaving a single junior resident in-house to manage 120 inpatients in orthopedics,” wrote Dr. Paulose Paul, head of the orthopedic department of ‘Edmonton.
“This is a situation which I think you will all agree is NOT certain.”
Paul said in the email that the staffing issue had been around for many months.
In an effort to fill gaps in coverage, he said they had interviewed and identified new clinical associates ready to work.
“Despite being alerted to this situation months ago, RAH’s acute care coverage and medical affairs have not been able to fill these shifts. “
Paul warned that there could be more surgical disruption throughout August if the positions are not filled.
In a statement, an AHS spokesperson said the cancellations affected 53 patients.
The orthopedic surgery center of the Royal Alexandra Hospital in #YEG temporarily closed four operating rooms for 72 hours due to an unexpected lack of medical coverage for post-surgical care.
“AHS continues to face staffing issues as the health system recovers from the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement said.
“Frontline staff are taking well-deserved vacation as many have postponed their vacation after 20 months of pandemic measures. This makes it difficult to fill some shifts.”
Several new staff have been recruited, the statement said, and will soon be ready to support the surgical program.
“Our health workers are tired”
At a press conference on Tuesday, Dr Curtis Johnston, AHS deputy director for the Edmonton health zone, said the suspension of surgeries had already reduced the number of inpatients, so he There will no longer be a single doctor for 120 patients overnight.
Johnston said surgical volumes have returned to normal levels and AHS plans to reschedule surgery for all 53 patients by the end of September.
He told reporters that the operation cancellations were not just due to staff vacations. He said there were many factors, noting that the pandemic had strained the province’s health system and its workers.
“I think it’s important to reiterate to all Albertans that our health care workforce is tired,” he said.
“They worked extremely hard and they did their best to serve Albertans and we have limits as humans.
“We need time to recover and rest and recover and do our best to meet the needs of all Albertans, not just surgical patients.
NDP blames the Minister of Health
Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro has previously said he intends to reduce the wait list for surgeries, including orthopedic surgeries, by shifting more surgeries from the public system to institutions private surgery.
The Minister has actively sought proposals to build and operate licensed surgical facilities.
Critics have accused Shandro and the UCP government of cutting funding for surgeries in the public health system in order to facilitate what they believe is an ideological transition to private surgical facilities.
They also warned it would create shortages of essential staff, like anesthesiologists, in the public system.
NDP health critic David Shepherd blamed Shandro for the most recent problem at the Royal Alex.
“It goes back to Tyler Shandro, his war on medics in the midst of a global pandemic, fighting with them, driving them out of the province, wearing them out completely,” Shepherd said, referring to an ongoing dispute between medics. and Shandro on Pay.
“And now we see the implications for Albertans on the ground.”
Shandro’s office did not respond to a request for comment.