As part of this priority work, chartered surgical facilities in Edmonton and Calgary will provide about 35,000 cataract and other eye procedures under new contracts with Alberta Health Services (AHS) this coming year. This is 25 per cent more than last year, and will drive down wait times and build resilience and capacity in the health system under the province’s Sustainability and Resiliency Action Plan.

Performing these ophthalmological surgeries in community clinics frees up operating room space in hospitals to provide more complex surgeries, including complex cataract and retinal procedures, plus ear, nose and throat surgeries. Budget 2022 provides $133 million over three years via the Alberta Surgical Initiative to expand and build new operating rooms in hospitals across the province.

A new independent surgical recovery lead has also been established to oversee, track and provide dedicated focus and rigour to surgical recovery. The new lead will keep the government and AHS on task and accountable to ensure people get better surgical care faster, based on recommended wait times.

“We need to build both public and private surgical capacity and reduce wait times. Utilizing private clinics in Calgary and Edmonton for ophthalmological surgeries, particularly cataract surgeries, will free up space for other surgeries in AHS facilities. The new surgical recovery lead will support our work with stakeholders to complete all postponed surgeries as quickly as possible and help develop innovative approaches to reducing wait times to clinically acceptable levels.”

Jason Copping, Minister of Health

Reducing wait times for eye surgeries

Albertans will have shorter waits for cataract surgeries, as AHS harnessed the competitive market to land on contracts with chartered surgical facilities to provide high volumes of eye surgeries at lower per-unit costs while also meeting existing standards of care.

Beginning April 1, new contracts with Holy Cross Surgical Services and Vision Group Canada will provide at least 20,000 ophthalmology procedures in Calgary this coming year (15,000 cataract surgeries and 5,000 other eye procedures) and at least 10,000 cataract surgeries in Edmonton chartered surgical facilities. AHS is working with chartered surgical facilities to provide 5,000 more cataract surgeries in Edmonton as soon as possible.

“The care and safety of patients is always of utmost importance for AHS. These independent facilities provide safe, low-risk surgeries without cost to patients, and are accredited through the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta. Ultimately, these contracts will lead to improved access, reduced wait times for surgery for patients, and support capacity in acute care by allowing hospitals to focus on emergent and more complex surgeries.”

Dr. Francois Belanger, vice president, Quality, and chief medical officer, Alberta Health Services

“We’re very pleased to be part of Alberta’s work to provide more publicly funded cataract and eye surgeries to Albertans. Vision Group Canada clinics in Calgary and Edmonton provide the very best services and surgeries to help people with their vision. This is a great opportunity to be part of the momentum of the Alberta Surgical Initiative to get people their ophthalmological procedures faster.”

Dr. Mark Cohen, managing partner, Vision Group Canada

“Chartered surgical facilities in the Calgary zone are stepping up to be part of the surgical recovery and solution to bring wait times down. Thanks to AHS and the Government of Alberta for moving forward to provide Albertans more access to eye surgeries.”

Dr. Andrew Crichton, section chief of Ophthalmology, Calgary Zone, Alberta Health Services

The successful vendors were chosen following a request for proposals in April 2021 to increase ophthalmology surgeries for Albertans, since cataract surgeries have historically had long wait times.

Surgical recovery lead

The province has also established a Canadian health-care executive, Ronan Segrave, as Alberta’s new independent surgical recovery lead with Alberta Health. With his experience transforming and strengthening surgical services and health systems in Canada and the United Kingdom, Segrave has already started work to develop an Alberta-made action plan to first reduce the surgical backlog created by the pandemic, then forge ahead on the Alberta Surgical Initiative so that every Albertan gets their surgeries within clinically recommended wait times.

“This is a great opportunity to forge forward on an Alberta-made plan that will support a strong surgical system built for the future. I’m pleased to take on this role and help drive better patient outcomes and set Alberta on a path to recovery.”

Ronan Segrave, Alberta’s surgical recovery lead

Segrave will also kick-start other innovative opportunities, beyond what is already underway in the province, to challenge the status quo and enhance the surgical system from the time patients are first referred to surgical care through to post-surgical rehabilitation. He will work closely with senior leaders from Alberta Health and AHS on creative, forward-thinking ideas.

Quick facts

  • According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, Alberta ranked seventh among provinces for providing cataract surgeries within recommended wait times.

Chartered surgical facilities

  • Alberta is a leader in Canada in partnering with chartered surgical facilities to increase access to much-needed surgeries.
  • Chartered surgical facilities have been offering publicly funded surgeries to Albertans since the 1990s.
  • The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta accredits chartered surgical facilities for quality and safety standards.
  • Surgical wait times have been affected by the pandemic, but chartered surgical facilities boosted access to surgeries whenever possible.
  • They performed about 45,500 surgical procedures from April 2020 to March 2021, more than ever before, and about 11 per cent more than before the pandemic.
  • Chartered surgical facilities currently deliver about 17 per cent of surgeries performed in Alberta.

Surgical recovery lead

  • Ronan Segrave has supported and advised on more than 30 major operational reviews of surgical services in hospitals in the United Kingdom and Canada, including in Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia.
  • As chief operating officer of Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg from December 2017 to June 2021, he led the transition to a new provincial health organization, Shared Health, and delivered $20 million of operational improvement with significant reductions in length of stays in acute care and reduced wait times in the emergency department.
  • His review of surgical services in Winnipeg led to the redesign of patient pathways, the development of an Ambulatory Surgical Centre to help address the COVID-19 surgical backlog, and implementation of an initiative called surgical smoothing. This uses a more nuanced triage and scheduling system for surgeries so that scheduled surgeries don’t compete or conflict with emergency surgeries for operating room time and resources.
  • While working in London, U.K., for England’s Department of Health, then later for Ernst & Young and other consultancy firms, he led the expansion of independent sector ambulatory surgical centres in the English National Health Service. This led to significantly reduced wait-lists for orthopedic and cataract surgery and achieved a national maximum 18-week wait target for patients.
Alberta's Recovery Plan