Surgery postponed for dozens of orthopedic patients at Royal Alexandra Hospital

WATCH: AHS said more surgeries could be cancelled in Alberta because of ongoing staffing shortages in health-care facilities. Breanna Karstens-Smith reports.

The Orthopedic Surgery Centre at the Royal Alexandra Hospital was forced to close four operating rooms for 72 hours beginning Monday.

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In a series of tweets, Alberta Health Services said the closure was due to an “unexpected lack of physician coverage for post-surgical care.”

“To be clear, the necessary surgeons, anesthetists, nursing staff, etc. are available, just not the in-hospital physician oversight to support patients after their surgery,” the tweets read.

The main operating room schedule has not been impacted, AHS said.

Alberta Health Services said 53 patients were affected by the closure, and their surgeries will be rescheduled as soon as possible.

Angela Unsworth with AHS told Global News these postponements will have minimal impact on surgical wait-times.

AHS blamed the staffing shortage on the COVID-19 pandemic and said “several clinical assistants and associates, who provide post-surgical care, have been recruited.”

“Frontline staff are taking much-needed vacation, as many have deferred vacation after 20 months of pandemic measures.”

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In an update on Tuesday, Dr. Curtis Johnston, the deputy medical director for the Edmonton zone, said the shortages were due to a variety of reasons.

“This is an extremely difficult time for all our health-care providers, including physicians, and there are a number of reasons why the schedule’s not being filled,” he said.

“This is part of a bigger issue of our whole health-care system. The whole health-care system is stressed and stretched under the circumstances of having to deal with this pandemic for as long as it’s gone on and it continues to go on.”

On Tuesday, NDP health critic David Shepherd called on Health Minister Tyler Shandro to step up and take responsibility for the circumstances Shepherd claims were caused by the UCP government.

“These critical staffing shortages are the direct result of his botched handling of the pandemic, alongside his war with Alberta doctors, nurses and other front-line health-care workers,” Shepherd said.

“This is a government that has driven more (health-care workers) away, has maintained that antagonistic relationship and made it more difficult in many respects for them to be able to continue to afford to do the work. So really, this all comes back down to Shandro.”

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AHS added those requiring urgent or emergency surgery will still get the care they need, though Johnston said staffing issues that health-care workers are facing may affect other surgeries going forward.

AHS added those requiring urgent or emergency surgery will still get the care they need.

Global News reached out to Shandro for a comment. This story will be updated if one is received.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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