Doctors concerned with surgical capacity in Alberta

By Sean Amato

Alberta doctors are sounding the alarm about a lack of surgical capacity in Alberta. One is warning people could die if the situation is not addressed.

The surgery situation in hospitals is at a crisis point, according to the Alberta Medical Association — which went public Monday morning — saying patients are being transferred from one hospital to another, even in emergency situations.

“Delay means probable complications. It may mean more severe illness, very quickly, and in the worst-case scenario, a patient can die from these illnesses,” explained Dr. Lloyd Mack, a surgeon.

Surgeries are team work. The problem? The AMA says is that operating rooms and surgeons are too often left idle because they do not have the staff required to assist in a procedure.

“If those team members are not there, I cannot accept the patient from the emergency room. The ER is effectively closed to surgical patients and they need to be sent elsewhere,” said Dr. Mack.

Alberta Health Services said diversions are a last resort, to make sure patients get the care required. AHS doesn’t track how common the practice is, but a spokesperson disputed AMA’s claim that trauma patients have recently been diverted for surgery.

A spokesperson for the health ministry said Alberta is spending $618 million to improve operating rooms, and paying for thousands of surgeries in private facilities to improve access.

The AMA says frequent scrambling to find surgical staff makes it harder to attract new workers. They say the solutions are complex, but increasing compensation for people who assist surgeons would help.

“Some of these issues are definitely related to the funding models and the incentives around trying to recruit and retain and be competitive compared to the rest of the country,” said Dr. Paul Parks, Alberta Medical Association President.

The NDP said Alberta is struggling to attract healthcare workers because of what they describe as “chaos and mismanagement” created by Premier Danielle Smith and her UCP government.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today