Today AHS announced the creation of new Rapid Transfer Units at the Royal Alexandra and University Hospital in the next six weeks. Each unit will include 8 to 15 beds. The two pilot sites will also add dedicated EMS stretcher capacity as well as additional clinical staff within six weeks as a way to improve access to emergency rooms. In response, Sandra Azocar, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare, issued the following statement:
On a cold February in 2013, Friends of Medicare stood in front of the Royal Alexandra Hospital to raise concerns around the closing of the 30-bed Medical Transition Unit. Similar announcements were made at the Rocky View Hospital where the 12-bed Medical Assessment Unit was closed. The beds were opened in the summer of 2010 to much media fan fare with the goal of solving the emergency room crisis highlighted at the time by Dr. Paul Parks, official spokesperson for the Section of Emergency Medicine, Alberta Medical Association.
The beds were presented as a permanent solution to the overcapacity ER, yet the solution quickly became temporary in the government's 2013 budget cuts, which led to the bed closures. Mike Conroy, the Senior Vice President for AHS Edmonton Zone at the time, reported that the Royal Alex Transition Centre was meant to act as a bridge until the province was able to increase capacity in continuing care. He indicated that 600 continuing care beds and 30 acute care bed had been added to the system. However, it was not made clear where these beds were or when they had been opened.
While we are encouraged that Health Minister Mandel and AHS are reversing some of the government's bad decisions, we need long-term solutions to the problems that were created by cuts to front-line workers and beds. The government must stop pandering for votes in the upcoming by-election and focus on ways to implement real systematic changes in our health care system."