Eleven surgeries – including three cancer surgeries – were postponed at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in a two-day span due to a spike in emergency cases.

Kerry Williamson, spokesperson for Alberta Health Services, said the hospital faced “extraordinary emergency capacity issues yesterday” and as a result, eight surgeries had to be postponed.

An additional three surgeries were postponed on Wednesday.

“We understand that this creates significant distress for those patients, and we regret the impact these decisions have on them,” Williamson said in a statement sent to CTV.

“The postponements will not affect the patients, clinically. Obviously, they will create distress, and we are happy to discuss this with the patients in question to ease that distress.”

Williamson said the Royal Alexandra Hospital was faced with "significant and unexpected capacity pressures." Over a 24-hour period, the hospital saw 22 emergency admissions compared to an average of 10-12.

He said this relates to similar capacity issues seen at Edmonton and Calgary hospitals in recent weeks.

The surgeries were considered ‘non-emergent’ and the hospital is working to reschedule all patients as soon as possible.

“The three cancer patients have already been rescheduled, one for later this week,” Williamson said.

“Decisions like this are made on a triage basis - we do not postpone emergent surgeries, but sometimes have to postpone less emergent surgeries when more emergent surgical patients are admitted.”

Sandra Azocar, with Friends of Medicare, questions where the situation is due to the flu season or a staffing shortage.

“I think we seriously need to be addressing the capacities our hospitals have,” Azocar said.

“I think it’s more than unacceptable. It’s reprehensible that this is happening.”

Azocar says the hospital should not have postponed the surgeries.

"We do not recognize the fact that there has been an increase of bed use because of the influenza, flu outbreak, but it should not be a situation where people who require surgeries should have to wait to get the services they need," she said.

Alberta Health Services maintains the situation is not a staffing issue, rather a capacity issue.

The province is advising Albertans to consider turning to other medical centres instead of emergency departments, if they believe their case is non-emergency, including going to a family physician, medicentres, family care clinics, or primary care networks.

With files from Carmen Leibel