Grande Prairie – Wapiti MLA and Finance Minister Travis Toews says the money the provincial government has committed to healthcare, in the long run, will help elevate some of the strain that emergency rooms in the region face. Toews says wait times and personnel shortages are not just an issue being faced at the Beaverlodge Municipal Hospital or Grande Prairie Regional Hospital but across the province, and is part of why the government has committed over $3 billion to healthcare in the spring budget to help decrease emergency room wait times and cut wait times for surgeries.
“I’m not going to pretend we are going to see a difference tomorrow; we aren’t. It is going to take time,” Toews says. “But I know right now Minister [Jason] Copping and the team at health are starting to make some progress province-wide.”
Toews says average wait times at hospitals have already started to decrease across the province, with patients on average having to wait more than seven hours to see a doctor back in November. The average wait time across the province is now six and a half hours. He acknowledges these times are still too long but are trending in the right direction.
“The big challenge is that there is a shortage of frontline healthcare professionals in some regions of the province, at some times.”
This is an issue Alberta Health Services has acknowledged the dozen or so times the Beaverlodge Emergency Department was without physician coverage or had a lack of nursing coverage in 2022, and the three times so far in 2023. Each time the department is closed all EMS calls are rerouted to the Grande Prairie Regional Hospital and nurses who remain at the Beaverlodge location refer patients to either the Grande Prairie hospital or other nearby emergency locations.
Toews says one of the solutions to this issue is training more nurses and doctors, along with bringing more foreign nurses and doctors to the province.