Grants support First Nations surgical clinics

L-R: Councillor Samuel Crowfoot, Chief Whitney-Onespot, Chief Crowfoot, Minister Shandro, Minister Wilson.

Enoch Cree Nation, Maskwacis Bands, Tsuut’ina Nation, Bigstone Cree Nation, Blood Tribe and Siksika Nation are each receiving $50,000 from the Alberta government to help them develop proposals for chartered surgical facilities that could offer publicly funded surgeries to people on and off reserve.

“I’m delighted to see so many First Nations willing to work with government to help meet our commitment to provide all scheduled surgeries within clinically appropriate wait times by 2023. Partnerships with First Nations could be a big boost to the Alberta Surgical Initiative, helping us to eliminate the backlog from the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, and driving innovation to help us create the strongest surgical system in Canada.”

Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health

“Having surgical suites in First Nations opens new possibilities for better access to health care while bringing jobs and the spin-off economic benefits to communities. It is another step on a path to shared prosperity and reconciliation.”

Rick Wilson, Minister of Indigenous Relations

The First Nations will use the government grants to complete a needs assessment and business case to determine if a chartered surgical facility would be a good fit for their community. The funds will also enable them to secure professional and contractor services. This will help them identify investors and partnerships to help position them to submit proposals to contract with Alberta Health Services to provide publicly funded surgeries.

Later this fall, AHS will post the first requests for proposals (RFPs) to expand existing chartered surgical facilities or open new ones to offer thousands more surgeries.

As more chartered surgical facilities provide surgeries in rural and urban communities, space will be freed up in hospitals so more complex surgeries can be performed in those operating rooms, reducing wait times across the province.

“We’re very pleased First Nations communities can be part of the province’s plan to provide more surgeries to all Albertans, living on or off reserve. With government support, we may one day build and open our own surgical facility based on Indigenous values that can drive health services and access to surgeries in Enoch.”

Chief Billy Morin, Enoch Cree Nation

“It’s wonderful to imagine a chartered surgical facility within the boundaries of the TAZA Development that could provide job opportunities to our young people as health-care professionals, and increase the health and well-being of not just Tsuut’ina, but for Calgary and the surrounding areas.”

Chief Roy Whitney-Onespot, Tsuut’ina Nation

“I look forward to being part of the province’s plan to reduce surgical wait times. Bigstone Cree Nation is a leader in health-care delivery, offering a full range of health services both on  and off reserve. Our First Nation members, and everyone on and off reserve, deserve to have their surgeries quickly so they can get back on their feet and spend quality time with their families.”

Chief Silas Yellowknee, Bigstone Cree Nation

“I’m pleased to live in a province where health equity is a priority, and where we, as Siksika Nation, can participate in health and economic opportunities that can improve surgical access to our seniors, and people in surrounding communities.”

Chief Ouray Crowfoot, Siksika Nation

In order to consider opening a chartered surgical facility, a First Nation would be required to establish the facility close to a large city hospital, should patients need additional care. The First Nation community would also need to engage a medical director who would work at the chartered surgical facility and be accountable for the quality and safety of the facility and its services.

Quick facts

  • Right now, 43 chartered surgical facilities work under contract with AHS to provide publicly funded surgeries in the fields of ophthalmology, dermatology, ear, nose and throat, oral and maxillofacial surgery, gynecology, and reconstructive plastic surgery.
  • AHS is currently operating at almost 90 per cent of pre-COVID surgical volume compared with the low of 40 per cent early in the pandemic. AHS continues to increase volume and is targeting 100 per cent pre-COVID levels before the end of the year.
  • AHS will then aim to exceed pre-COVID surgical volumes early in 2021, reaching 125 per cent – and up to 150 per cent if required – in order to reach 2023 Alberta Surgical Initiative targets.