When Jaelene Tweedle visited the hospital’s emergency department in late December, she was ushered into an area filled with makeshift treatment spaces divided by temporary tarps.
UCP government first announced plans to expand the hospital in 2020CBC News
· Posted: Jan 08, 2024 7:13 PM EST | Last Updated: January 9
The Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre serves nearly half a million people in central Alberta. It regularly operates over 100 per cent capacity. (Heather Marcoux/CBC)Jaelene Tweedle says she knew the Red Deer Hospital’s emergency room had been under stress for a while, but she wasn’t prepared for what she saw when she had to visit the facility last month.
Tweedle, who ran for the Alberta NDP in Red Deer-North in the 2023 election, told CBC News that after sitting in the hospital’s ER waiting room for approximately five hours in the early hours of Dec. 21, she was taken back to a treatment area.
There, white tarps had been hung between metal posts to create makeshift treatment spaces.
Tweedle was ushered into one such space, where she sat for a further six hours as she was assessed. At one point, she shared that space with another person.
“I was surprised to see things have come to this,” said Tweedle.
The temporary divider made from a white tarp, photographed by Jaelene Tweedle on her visit to the Red Deer Hospital’s emergency department. (Submitted by Jaelene Tweedle)In a statement, a spokesperson for Alberta Health Services (AHS) said the Red Deer Hospital continues to see high patient volumes, and some “temporary mobile dividers” have been erected in the hospital’s “fast-track” area for privacy as needed.
“These temporary dividers also help limit transmission of respiratory illnesses,” read the statement.
AHS said it’s not unusual to see high caseloads at this time of year because of the prevalence of respiratory illnesses.
The agency added it has ordered permanent dividers, which will be installed as a long-term solution.
In a news conference on Monday, Luanne Metz, Alberta NDP critic for emergency and surgical care, demanded a better solution to expand space in the emergency department.
“Adriana LaGrange must come forward and apologize on behalf of her government for failing her own constituents so badly while serving as the health minister,” said Metz.
“And when she issues that apology, we’re also demanding she come forward with a real plan and timeline and funding to build the Red Deer Hospital expansion. No more excuses and no more delays.”
The health minister’s office responded.
“The NDP are intentionally trying to mislead Albertans,” the office said in a statement. “Non-ICU adult occupancy in the central zone is at 74 per cent. While the emergency department at RDRHC is experiencing high patient demand, like all hospitals across the country, patients continue to receive care when and where they need it. Nobody will be turned away if they need urgent care.”
The Red Deer Regional Hospital serves nearly half a million central Albertans and has long been plagued by capacity problems, staffing shortages and high patient volumes.
The province first pledged $100 million to go toward the hospital expansion in early 2020. Construction was slated to begin in 2021, but it never got underway.
In early 2022, Jason Kenney’s government announced a $1.8-billion plan to expand the hospital. At the time, the province said the project would be done in phases, and could be expected to be complete by 2030.
The health minister’s office said Monday the project is still on time and is in the design stage.
“At $1.8 billion, the Red Deer Hospital Centre redevelopment is one of the largest health-care projects that the Alberta government has ever undertaken. We are committed to completing this project quickly, without compromising quality, which is why we committed an additional $321 million over three years for redevelopment in budget 2023.”
With files from Jennifer Lee, Joel Dryden and Jonathan Sharp