HealthMore surgeries to reduce wait times

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro (right) announces the Alberta Surgical Wait Times Initiative at the Southern Alberta Eye Center, with Dr. Geoff Williams (left), Dr. Amin Kherani and eye patient Stan Grad (seated).

The new initiative will provide up to 80,000 more publicly funded surgeries over the next four years to meet wait-time targets and to ensure people receive their care within clinically recommended times.

“We promised we would reduce surgical wait times, and we’re delivering on that promise. This ambitious plan will mean Alberta will have the best wait-time performance in Canada. Our plan puts the needs of patients before ideology, relying on private and public partners to achieve fundamental system improvements.”

Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health

The wait-times initiative will ensure patients get their surgeries within time frames set by medical specialists. As recommended in the MacKinnon Report, government will expand contracts with non-hospital surgical facilities, many of which already offer safe, low-risk surgeries at lower cost.

As more surgeries become available in the community, hospitals will be able to focus on emergencies and more-complex surgeries. All medically necessary surgeries, no matter where they are offered, will be covered and fully paid for under Alberta’s public health-care system.

“This is great news for Albertans. Increased access for our retina patients in our publicly funded ambulatory surgical centre will free up hospital resources, reduce wait times and alleviate access pressure in other surgical areas. Hospital beds are better allocated to sick, complex or injured individuals. Our surgical centre can help the many others needing eye surgery, but who are otherwise healthy and don’t require admission to hospital. We’re pleased to be part of the solution.”

Dr. Geoff Williams, retina specialist and surgeon, co-founder of the Southern Alberta Eye Center

The wait-times initiative will improve and standardize the entire surgical system from the time patients seek advice from their family doctor, to when they are referred to a specialist, to their surgery and rehabilitation.

This will include:

  • Expanding telephone and electronic advice programs so primary care providers can receive timely advice from medical and surgical specialists.
  • Creating a centralized electronic referral system that triages every person waiting for surgery so that they see the right specialist in the shortest time.

Cost savings found through the AHS review will support the surgical initiative. More details will be part of the spring 2020 budget.

Quick facts

  • As of May 2019, more than 70,000 patients were waiting for scheduled surgery in Alberta.
    • Of those, close to 20,000 had been waiting more than four months.
    • Only 61 per cent of all surgeries were performed within their clinically recommended targets.
  • In 2018-19, Alberta Health Services performed 85 per cent of all 293,000 provincial surgeries in its hospitals.
  • AHS contracted with private non-hospital surgical facilities to perform the other 15 per cent.
  • Currently, 42 non-hospital surgical facilities provide surgeries under contract with AHS. Most are in Edmonton and Calgary. All must be accredited by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta and follow safety and quality standards.
  • As Alberta’s population grows and ages, more people will need surgery each year. Since 2013-14, the province has experienced a 7.5 per cent increase in scheduled surgeries.

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