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Tarp dividers evidence of Red Deer's need for bigger hospital, patient and NDP say

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre. (Brandon Lynch/CTV News Edmonton)
Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre. (Brandon Lynch/CTV News Edmonton)
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Alberta Health Services says it is working on a long-term solution at Red Deer's hospital where it has been criticized for dividing assessment space with tarps hung by duct tape.

This is what Jaelene Tweedle says she saw after waiting in the emergency department for five hours the early morning of Dec. 21.

During an NDP-hosted news conference on Monday, she likened it to "something out of Hollywood movie set during a pandemic."

"I was surprised to see things had come to this," Tweedle told reporters.

AHS confirmed to CTV News Edmonton it erected "some temporary mobile dividers" between chairs in the emergency department's fast-track area to provide privacy.

"These temporary dividers also help limit transmission of respiratory illnesses," spokesperson Heather Kipling said in a statement.

Respiratory illness is one of the reasons the government agency says all of Alberta's major urban hospitals are currently seeing high patient volumes.

According to Kipling, AHS has ordered and will be installing permanent dividers.

"AHS is doing all it can to ensure we continue to provide patients with the care they need, while reducing the risk of transmission and making patients as comfortable as possible."

But Tweedle and the NDP – with whom Tweedle ran against Health Minister Adriana LaGrange in the Red Deer-North constituency in the 2023 election – say Alberta needs to present a "real plan" as well as a timeline and funding for the hospital's expansion.

Calgary MLA and the NDP's critic for emergency and surgical care Dr. Luanne Metz accused the United Conservative government of ignoring central Alberta's health-care needs and failing to follow through on its promises to expand the hospital.

"No more excuses and no more delays," she demanded.

The office of the minister of health told CTV News Edmonton the province is committed to the hospital's redevelopment and that the project is on the design stage and on time.

"There are three major construction phases: construction of an ambulatory care building, a new inpatient tower, and an expansion and renovation of the existing hospital’s main building," press secretary Andrea Smith explained.

The NDP also want the government to try to find space in the facility that may be being misused or used inefficiently, support primary care better to prevent backlogs, and focus on reducing the load on emergency departments, including with stronger vaccination campaigns.  

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