Mayor Contradicted On Hospital Comments

Asked if Katchur’s claim about Emergency Room beds being used as storage was accurate, AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson said, “no, that is not accurate.”

Photo Credit: Copyright Andrei Malov |

To read Fort Saskatchewan Mayor Gale Katchur’s Facebook post on Monday, February 27th, one could think the Fort Saskatchewan Community Hospital (FSCH) was in a state of crisis.

In what I feel is best described as a rambling missive, Katchur urged local residents to complain directly to someone named “Deb Gordon.”

Seemingly blaming the “Super Board” specifically and administrators generally, Katchur claimed “only 6 [emergency room] beds are in operation [at FSCH] because the rest are being used as storage.”

The Mayor also suggested Alberta Health Services (AHS) has a “quota on the number of scope procedures that can be done,” and said “if you have cancer you could wait a year to have a scope done,” before ominously warning it “could cost you your life?” Katchur also seemed to imply that not enough surgeries were being conducted at the hospital.

Much of the Facebook post was regurgitated two days later by Dave Truscott, in his community newsletter.

However, very little, in my view, appears to be actually wrong at the hospital in the aspects Katchur alleges.

By contacting AHS, I learned that prior to the Mayor’s Facebook post, the organization was “unaware of her most recent concerns,” in my view raising questions as to the motivation behind Katchur’s post.

For their part, AHS was congenial, saying they are “committed to discussing [Katchur’s concerns] with her further in the near future.” They noted they have had “several discussions with Mayor Katchur over the past couple of years.”

AHS provided no indication of any reason why Katchur could not have contacted them directly, rather than making her allegations public. The wording of the story in Truscott’s newsletter also seems to suggest that none of Katchur’s claims were independently verified by that publication, either.

Asked if Katchur’s claim about Emergency Room beds being used as storage was accurate, AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson said, “no, that is not accurate.”

“The FSCH emergency department operates a daily average of eight to ten beds, depending on patient need, physician coverage, and staffing,” Williamson continued.

“The unit also utilizes chairs in the Emergency Department for patients that do not require a bed and may just be waiting for blood test results, etc., to help with patient flow.”

Asked about wait times at the Emergency Department, Williamson said they were below average: “The average wait time for a patient to see a physician at the Fort Saskatchewan Community Hospital ED in 2016 was 1.2 hours. This is lower than the provincial average.”

Regarding endoscopy services, AHS also contradicted Katchur’s claims: “If a physician deems that a patient needs an urgent or emergency endoscopy (scoping), then they will receive it,” said Williamson.

AHS also says the number of endoscopy procedures at the hospital has increased. They are now offered five days per week, and increased from 1,988 procedures in 2013-14 to 2,348 in 2016-17. Speaking regarding surgical volumes, those too have increased significantly, with 3,031 surgeries in 2015-16 increasing to 3,272 in 2016-17.

Williamson also highlighted significant improvements at the hospital in recent years. Among these are a new Canadian Fellow trained OBGYN that joined the women’s health program last year, with a second joining in January. AHS also recruited a general ophthalmologist in February. An Infectious Disease Consultant was also added to the hospital staff last year.

Of note, Deb Gordon, the woman referred to by both Katchur and Truscott, is AHS’ Vice President & Chief Health Operations Officer for Northern Alberta.

Gordon, a Registered Nurse, earned her Certified Health Executive (CHE) designation from the Canadian College of Health Leaders in 2003. She also holds a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Alberta, and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of British Columbia.

According to her biography, Gordon is “a senior leader with experience and expertise in urban and rural health service delivery; acute tertiary and quarternary care; academic health centres; professional and collaborative practice, including nursing and health professions; clinical workforce planning, and leadership.”

To my knowledge, collectively, Katchur and Truscott have zero experience in hospital management, nor do they have any formal education in medicine.

In my opinion, both are simply engaging in irresponsible fear-mongering. Perhaps it’s time for Fort residents to ask: “Why?” //

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