Doctors claim ERs across Alberta are critically overcrowded

Alberta doctors are sounding the alarm about overcrowded hospitals and emergency departments. As Laura Krause reports, there aren’t enough beds for patients in some wards.

Staying in the ER for hours on end and waiting for a hospital bed is unacceptable, says ER doctor Paul Parks, President of the Alberta Medical Association, but it’s become all too common.

“Even patients who are less acute are waiting 12, 15, 17 hours in our big emergency departments,” said Dr. Parks.

Alberta doctors are sounding the alarm over their emergency departments and hospitals being overcrowded. Saying it’s the worst they’ve ever seen with more patients in the waiting room than there are beds available. 

Dr. Parks says tells CityNews the waits in ERs are record-breaking. Many hospitals are operating well above capacity, putting patients in non-traditional areas like hallways. Many are stuck in the emergency department as there aren’t enough beds.

“It’s quite moralizing to see a lot of sick people. We come to work every day, we want to help people, we want to make them feel better,” said Dr. Parks.

“They’re really stressed and really overloaded, and they are really struggling to be able to provide safe and timely care for the patients in the wards too.”

Another Edmonton ER doctor took to social media platform X, saying “Feeling helpless at 4 p.m. in the ER amidst a crumbling system, staring at 40 patients in my waiting room I’m unable to see, as my beds are full of sick patients waiting to go upstairs to a full hospital. This is not OK.”

In a statement from the Minister of Health’s office, they say Alberta Health is aware of the current pressures on our emergency department, and say no patients have been turned away, and care continues to be provided.

“As always, the sickest patients will be given priority. AHS has instituted many parts of the surge capacity protocol to accommodate the increased demands. No surgeries have been delayed,” read part of the statement.

Alberta’s Health Office claims many Albertans don’t have access to primary care through a doctor and end up turning to an emergency department, which is why the province is refocusing the health care system to ensure every Albertan has the access they need when and where they need it.

“It’s incredibly concerning when we have our front-line doctors saying this is the worst they have ever seen, and that includes the peak of COVID-19,” said David Shepard, NDP health critic.

“The biggest challenge we have is we need more front-line healthcare workers, yet we have seen no progress from this government in the last 6 months since they have been government towards actually recruiting more nurses, recruiting more doctors, getting more people on the frontlines. We know in fact recruitment is well below the growth of the population in the province in the last year.”

Parks urges anyone who needs care, to get it — but asks you to be patient with staff — as they are doing the best they can under these circumstances.

“As the system gets stressed more and more we’re trying our absolute best to see the sickest patients as quickly as we possibly can,” said Dr. Parks.

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