3 Calgary hospitals without surgical support staff at points this weekend

Surgical wait times for Calgarians have the potential to be excessive this weekend, says the head of the Alberta Association of General Surgeons. (StockLeb/Shutterstock - image credit)
Surgical wait times for Calgarians have the potential to be excessive this weekend, says the head of the Alberta Association of General Surgeons. (StockLeb/Shutterstock - image credit)

General surgery at three of Calgary's hospitals will be operating with limited staff this weekend — something an emergency room doctor says has the potential to put people's health at risk.

A notice provided to CBC said general surgery at Foothills Medical Centre, Peter Lougheed Centre, and Rockyview General Hospital will be uncovered by house staff during certain periods over the weekend.

On Sunday, there will be a period of time when all of those hospitals will be without house staff.

AHS said those support shifts are often staffed by medical residents. They can also be staffed by a physician assistant, who prepares the next patient for surgery to help prevent delays, said Dr. Tony Gomes, president of the Alberta Association of General Surgeons.

That means surgical wait times for Calgarians could be excessive this weekend, he added.


"What's happened this weekend is the surgeons in all institutions in Calgary have been told that they have to do the call by themselves, without any team, which the general surgeons in Calgary feel is a danger," said Gomes. "So the surgeons will be kind of running off their feet trying to keep up with things."

"The emergency room could be blocked up with eight or 10 or 15 surgical patients waiting to be seen and they may not be seen for eight, 12, 16, 24 hours — just depending on whether the surgeon is available or not."

Gomes said this is an issue that has been brewing for a long time, as the province struggles to retain doctors and residents.

Calgary ER doctor Alyssa Morris said she's concerned that the lack of staff could lead to surgical diversions, routing all the hospital's surgeries to the South Health Campus hospital.

"I think that the public needs to know that their health is at major risk," she said.

"If they have a surgical issue, they can no longer expect expedient surgical consultation or care at many of the sites within our very large city."

She said it's been an ongoing issue for many months, but now it's happening at multiple hospitals.

She added that one of the fully staffed hospitals is rolling out Connect Care — the new AHS digital filing system — this weekend and will be overwhelmed with that.

AHS spokesperson James Wood said in an emailed statement to CBC that emergency surgeries continue to be performed at all Calgary hospitals as required, as are specialized surgeries like cardiac or orthopedic.

"Some support shifts — such as medical residents — are partially covered at Foothills Medical Centre, Peter Lougheed Centre and Rockyview General Hospital due to unexpected absences (including illness and vacation). We are actively working on filling these spots," Wood wrote in an emailed statement.

He added that there are no surgical diversions in Calgary planned for this weekend.

"While emergency procedures will continue as needed, there may be delays in surgical assessments within the Emergency Department at affected sites. All patients will continue to be triaged and treated."

Wood said Connect Care Launch 6 is occurring this weekend but it is not related to unfilled support shifts.