The government introduced its Alberta Surgical Initiative in 2019 to ensure that more Albertans receive the surgeries they need faster. Because of that initiative, the province is on track to complete more surgeries this year than ever before when combining surgeries performed by Alberta Health Services (AHS) and publicly funded chartered surgical facilities.

Alberta’s government and AHS are continuing their work to increase the number of surgeries completed across the province while reducing the surgical backlog and increasing capacity. The initiative focuses on improving each patient’s surgical journey from the time they initially seek advice to when they are referred to a specialist and undergo surgery and rehabilitation.

Albertans deserve timely access to surgeries where and when they need them. If passed, Budget 2024 would invest $618 million in targeted spending to improve access to surgeries and the acute care facilities that perform surgeries.

“Albertans should have access to health care when and where they need it. The Alberta Surgical Initiative is empowering health care providers to complete more surgeries while improving wait times. We are working closely with Alberta Health Services to address the existing backlog and introducing new funding to ensure the necessary facilities are in place to deliver timely care to Albertans.”

Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Health

A total of $305 million is being provided to Alberta Health Services to perform 310,000 surgical procedures this year – an increase of almost six per cent from 2022-23. It is estimated that between 60,000 and 65,000 of these surgical procedures will be completed at publicly funded chartered surgical facilities, freeing up operating rooms in hospitals to handle more complex surgeries.

Budget 2024 also includes $313 million over three years for the Alberta Surgical Initiative Capital Program, which would add and expand operating rooms across the province. This investment would increase capacity and improve use of existing capacity at facilities in both urban and rural communities across the province. Through this program, Alberta’s government would renovate surgical suites and support areas in Brooks, Calgary, Crowsnest Pass, Edmonton, Innisfail, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Olds, Rocky Mountain House and Taber.

“By delivering Alberta Surgical Initiative projects in communities throughout the province, we are increasing surgical capacity, shortening surgical wait times and ensuring Albertans can get the treatment they need closer to home. This is not just an investment in our health care system, this will also support thousands of construction-related jobs across our province.”

Pete Guthrie, Minister of Infrastructure

“Albertans should not have to wait longer than clinically recommended for surgery. We are committed to reducing wait times and improving health care delivery across the province. By collaborating with Alberta Health Services and investing in acute care and key infrastructure projects, we will work to ensure Albertans receive timely, appropriate health care.”

Martin Long, parliamentary secretary for rural health

Investing in acute care

If passed, Budget 2024 would also provide $4.4 billion in operating expense funding for acute care in 2024-25 – an increase of $60 million from the 2023-24 forecast. This investment includes funding for the Facilitated Access to Specialized Treatment (FAST) program.

Launched in 2022, the FAST program gives family doctors and other providers the ability to send referrals to a central team that assigns the case to the specialist with the shortest wait list, or to a specific surgeon if the patient chooses to wait longer. The program currently supports urology, orthopedic, general and vascular surgery cases but will roll out to other areas, including gynecology, over the next three years.

In addition to these measures, Alberta’s government is also working to reduce wait times through the Rapid Access Clinic pilot program that launched in February. This initiative provides timely assessments to individuals with musculoskeletal conditions to determine if surgery is required or if the patient could benefit from non-surgical treatment, ensuring that they get the right care, when and where they need it.

“Alberta Health Services is committed to ensuring Albertans have timely access to surgeries. Through the Alberta Surgical Initiative, we have made significant improvements to the surgical wait list; but we are not done yet. Through these additional investments, we will continue to work on reducing wait times for Albertans so they can access the surgical care they need within the clinically recommended wait times.”

Sean Chilton, interim vice-president and chief operating officer, clinical operations and emergency medical services, Alberta Health Services

Budget 2024 is a responsible plan to strengthen health care and education, build safe and supportive communities, manage the province’s resources wisely and promote job creation to continue to build Alberta’s competitive advantage.

Quick facts

  • As of March 17, 293,150 surgeries have been completed across the province in 2023-24, an increase from the 292,500 completed in 2022-23.
  • When an Alberta patient is referred for surgery, Alberta Health Services schedules all surgeries through its internal system and determines whether a surgery will be performed at a hospital or a chartered surgical facility based on several factors, including the type of surgery.
  • Budget 2024 provides $159 million over three years to renovate medical device reprocessing departments across the province to support surgical services and address surgical backlog.
    • Medical device reprocessing enables hospitals to reuse medical equipment and instruments, improving sustainability and efficiency while reducing costs and waste.

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