Patient safety concerns reported daily by nurses at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre

Central Zone Overcapacity

The hospital operates frequently in a state of overcapacity. We never seem to come out of it, or if we do, it is only for a very short time. — UNA Local 2 President Sue Beatson

Patient safety concerns are being identified and reported by nurses at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre every day while the overcapacity and understaffing crisis in the facility continues unabated.
Members of United Nurses of Alberta Local 2 report that Central Alberta’s largest hospital has been operating well above its patient capacity every day throughout December and so far in January while the hospital’s Emergency Department has consistently been unable to meet its baseline staffing levels on most shifts.
On Saturday, patients coming to Emergency had to be diverted to other hospitals for more than 13 hours on Saturday, with some being sent as far away as Calgary. This situation also significantly impacts other sites across the Alberta Health Services Central Zone.
Wait times in Emergency over the weekend were reported as long as 18 hours. On Friday, a patient became critically ill in the waiting room while awaiting treatment.
Not only was the hospital constantly experiencing extremely high numbers of patients coming to the Emergency Department, but nursing shifts in Emergency were typically short multiple nurses.
The resulting exhaustion, frustration and inability to provide safe patient care is leading more senior nurses to quit or even leave the profession. “Our reality is crisis,” warned UNA Local 2 Vice-President Margo Buss.
“The hospital operates frequently in a state of overcapacity,” said Local President Sue Beatson. “We never seem to come out of it, or if we do, it is only for a very short time.”
Patients in overcapacity on hospital units outside Emergency often must stay in rooms without access to oxygen, call buttons, monitoring equipment, or washrooms. “These are not safe spaces,” said Buss.
The backlog in admissions makes it difficult to treat new patients as they arrive, the Local 2 leaders say. Patients with unstable conditions have to wait for long periods of time in the Emergency Department. Last weekend, up to 80 per cent of the patients in Emergency had already been admitted but lacked a safe bed elsewhere in the hospital.
Nursing staff are trying to get results by filing reports of patient safety issues – technically known as Profession Responsibility Concerns, or PRCs – but AHS needs to take specific measures now to ease the crisis in Red Deer while long-term solutions are sought.
Among them:
-       Acknowledging the crisis by returning base staffing requirements to the levels of two years ago, which were cut when AHS implemented its so-called Operational Best Practices program.
-       Ensuring there are two triage nurses on duty in the daytime as part of the basic staffing requirement, and a waiting-room duty nurse to ensure patient safety.
-       Ensuring there are addictions and mental health nurses on site as part of the basic staffing requirement.
-       Staffing and extended hours for the hospital’s minor treatment area.
-       Hiring additional appropriately qualified “agency” nurses on a temporary basis to ease the day-to-day staffing crisis.
-       Pausing surgeries in Red Deer while the admissions crisis continues.
-       Discontinuing the use of overcapacity spaces as regular bed spaces, which normalizes the abnormal.
-       Keeping a surgical unit now closed on weekends open 24/7.