Lack of supervision for resident doctors results in surgery disruptions at Edmonton hospital

About 90 orthopedic surgeries have been cancelled at the Royal Alexandra Hospital this week.  (David Bajer/CBC - image credit)
About 90 orthopedic surgeries have been cancelled at the Royal Alexandra Hospital this week. (David Bajer/CBC - image credit)

An Edmonton hospital has postponed dozens of scheduled orthopedic surgeries this week following a decision by the University of Alberta to move its residency program.

The university's Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry's orthopedic surgery division notified Alberta Health Services (AHS) that, as of July 1, its residency program would be moved from the Royal Alexandra Hospital to the University of Alberta Hospital (UAH), said Kerry Williamson, the Edmonton zone executive director for AHS.

The decision was made to ensure appropriate supervision for the doctors-in-training during their placements, said a spokesperson from the University of Alberta.

Approximately 90 scheduled elective surgeries have been postponed at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, according to Williamson.

"With the residents moving to UAH, we don't have adequate after-hours and post-operative coverage. Therefore, the surgeons made the decision to postpone surgeries," Williamson said in an email to CBC.

According to the general standards for residency programs, set by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, there must be "a sufficient number" of qualified staff to provide appropriate teaching and supervision of residents.

"This is to make sure they're trained in the way they should be trained," university spokesperson Ross Neitz said on Thursday.

The postponed orthopedic surgeries may include the reconstruction or replacement of joints like hips, knees, shoulders and some involving the spine.

The five-year orthopedic residency training program at the University of Alberta Hospital has rotating surgery placements for residents at six area hospitals.

In addition to the University and Royal Alexandra, these include the Misericordia and Grey Nuns hospitals in Edmonton, the Sturgeon Community Hospital in St. Albert, and the Stollery Children's Hospital, which is part of the University hospital complex.

"This may result in a variable number of residents in different locations at different times," said Neitz.

He said he didn't know how many residents were affected by the decision.

AHS said it is working to find alternative coverage at the Royal Alex. Urgent and emergency surgeries will continue to be done.

In Edmonton, arthroplasty hip and knee surgeries will continue to be done at the Misericordia, while shoulder surgeries will continue at the Sturgeon and the University hospitals.

AHS said efforts are underway to reschedule surgeries for patients who have been affected.