Some patients are waiting longer than 70 hours to be admitted to the hospital in St. Albert, according to an internal Alberta Health Services report.
The Alberta NDP opposition released a document earlier this week, which leader Rachel Notley said was provided by “a concerned employee,” showing some patients in Alberta are waiting more than 40 hours to be admitted.
The situation is worst in the Sturgeon Community Hospital, with one in 10 patients waiting longer than 71.9 hours to be admitted to in-patient beds.
“What it does show is the Sturgeon is the worst-performing hospital in the province, and their numbers have been a struggle for a while,” Notley said. “Those numbers are going up. They’re going up across the province, but they’re particularly high at the Sturgeon.”
She added this data emphasizes the failure of the government’s five-year health plan, introduced in 2010, which set an eight-hour admission benchmark for Alberta hospitals. This is only being met in 30 to 40 per cent of cases, according to documents on the AHS website.
Wendy Tanaka Collins, the site administrator at the Sturgeon Community Hospital, said the figure Notley refers to is accurate and acknowledged the hospital has “capacity issues,” but emphasized these patients are “outliers” and this doesn’t mean they haven’t been seen or treated.
“The important thing to remember is patients are seen in a timely fashion depending on the level of care they need,” she said, explaining the triage system means urgent patients are seen immediately, and as a result less-urgent patients sometimes have to wait longer.
The 72-hour figure refers to time some patients may spend waiting in the emergency bed until they’re admitted into the hospital’s in-patient rooms. The median average for that wait time is around 24 hours.
Tanaka Collins also noted the hospital transferred six beds from the surgical unit to the medicine unit by doing more surgeries as day surgeries, where it’s possible. She also expects a 10-bed expansion is in the works, increasing the total number of beds to 85.
“We’re expecting that some time in late 2015, those additional beds will come on stream,” she said.
This is expected, in part, to help keep up with increasing demand. The number of patients treated has increased by about 40 per cent per year in the last five years. An estimate 51,000 people will be admitted to the hospital this year, up from about 36,000 in 2009/10.
Tanaka Collins said most patients in the Emergency Department are seen within 1.3 hours, and two-thirds are discharged within four hours. Patients who need to be admitted when there’s no space in the Sturgeon might be transferred to other Edmonton Zone hospitals.
St. Albert resident Don Sinclair, a retired senior, has not had to wait 72 hours to be admitted, but his recent emergency department visit at the Sturgeon caused him some concern.
He had an appointment in the cardiac unit earlier this month, and was told he had to go the emergency room to have an infection dealt with right away. The nurse told him he could get in and out faster if she made a call on his behalf, and he was sent home roughly seven hours later with instructions to return in three days to have some gauze removed.
When he returned on a Sunday, the on-duty nurse told him they wouldn’t be able to help him.
“She said, ‘Not a chance. We are far too busy on Sundays. We can’t even look at doing that for you today,’” Sinclair said.
He returned Monday, and after another seven-hour wait he was sent on his way, but he saw other patients who were in worse shape than him, including a small child who had a deep chest cough.
“He coughed and hacked, coughed and hacked, for I don’t know, four or five hours,” Sinclair said. “It was bad to watch.”