The parking lot of the Memorial Centre was packed with Central Albertans voicing and hearing the opinions at a rally regarding the Red Deer Regional Hospital.
In 2014, it was identified the hospital needed 96 new hospital beds, three fully functioning operating rooms and 18 emergency stretchers.
The hospital was on the provincial list with that in mind for two years in a row, but was dropped off that list in 2016.
“We serve about 400,000 Central Albertans through our hospital and over the last 20 years we have not seen a new hospital bed and we have been at capacity for many years,” said Paul Hardy, general surgeon at Red Deer’s hospital.
The second rally, held Sept. 10th in the Memorial Centre parking lot, served as a follow up from the Feb. 28th meeting, informing members of the public on the issues of the hospital, so they can advocate to politicians.
“We believe that Central Albertans have not received their fair share of health care funding over the past 20 years, and if this doesn’t change, more and more people will have to go to Edmonton and Calgary to get basic care that they should be getting in Red Deer,” said Hardy.
Central Albertans wait longer for elective surgery, despite the fact they are travelling to Edmonton and Calgary to get surgery because the waits are too long. People also wait a long time for emergency surgery, waiting days for fractures to be fixed or gallbladders that are inflamed to be taken out.
Some are left waiting and some go elsewhere.
“A big area of stress here we’re seeing is joint replacement, hip replacement, knee replacement. People are waiting 18 months to see a surgeon and then another 12 to 18 months to get into the operating room,” he said.
Many are just not even being referred to Red Deer as their family doctor sends them to Edmonton or Calgary.
“We don’t believe that your postal code or your address should affect your access to health care.”
Kathy Atchison, a family physician who has practiced for the last 20 years in Red Deer said she has seen the population double and the complexity of patients in their health problems increase.
The medical community, she said has responded by recruiting more doctors and doctors that have specialty training.
“The Red Deer Hospital has grown by two operating rooms. These are obstetric operating rooms used only for obstetric patients,” she said.
She said the funding for this was approved in 2001 to meet the standard of care for obstetrics.
“I’ve had to send patients as far away as Medicine Hat to get care that they could receive in Red Deer because wait times there are shorter,” said Atchison.
She said this means greater costs to patients for travel, hotels and meals. Depending on their length of stay, they can also suffer from isolation from their friends and family, which in turn affects their healing time and recovery.
And it’s this issue among others that is because the Red Deer Hospital can’t expand due to lack of funding.
“I’ve had patients in hospital with cancer, with diarrhea and abdominal pain who are placed in TV rooms with no bathroom, no privacy and no call bell.”
She said it’s time the people of Red Deer and Central Alberta get the medical facility they deserve so they can receive the care they need at home.
With many health care professionals and even patients getting up to tell their stories and share their frustration came Councillor Ken Johnston, who’s had a personal struggle he shared with the public.
His primary issue he came into contact with was the cardiac catheterization.
Johnston’s wife suffered a heart attack in November of last year and subsequently passed away in March. She had to be air lifted by STARS to Calgary and later spent 100 days in the ICU.
“In those hundred days I certainly got a very good look at the hospital and certainly I just admire the way that our professionals here tried to save her life and get her recovered but unfortunately the damage to her heart was too great.”
He said Red Deer’s hospital has what they call an over crowded protocol, which means they are full and have patients that need space. They then modify hallways, lounges and bathrooms for bed space.
He said in the 100 days he was with his wife in Red Deer, that protocol was announced at least every second day.
“There are days I wondered am I in the third world?”
He said he would like to get a treatment centre that enables us to give cardiac care to people.
“The mortality statistics are 50 to 60 per cent higher here than they are in Calgary or Edmonton.”
Johnston has also been advocating this issue with the hospital in council too.
“There’s no issue in the world that’s strictly provincial, strictly municipal, strictly federal. Any issue involving any person involves any government.”