Albertans have been told to expect shorter wait times for surgeries over the next four years, as the provincial government is looking at funding as many as 80,000 more operations through the course of its mandate.
“We promised we would reduce surgical wait times and we’re delivering on that promise,” Health Minister Tyler Shandro said as part of the Tuesday announcement of the “Alberta Surgical Wait-Times Initiative.”
“This ambitious plan will mean Alberta will have the best wait-time performance in Canada.”
Shandro said the government will rely on private and public partners to improve this aspect of the healthcare system.
“The wait-times initiative will ensure patients get their surgeries within time frames set by medical specialists,” the UCP said in a news release.
In 2018 and 2019, the province said Alberta Health Services contracted private facilities to perform 15 per cent of surgeries in the province.
The government said it plans to expand on the contracts it has with non-hospital facilities which offer safe, low-risk and low-cost surgeries to help facilitate the thousands of additional operations, allowing hospitals to focus on emergency and more complex surgeries.
“All medically necessary surgeries, no matter where they are offered, will be covered and fully paid under Alberta’s public healthcare system,” the government said.
The UCP said it expects the new initiative to “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.”
Dr. Geoff Williams, retina specialist and surgeon with the Southern Alberta Eye Centre, welcomed the initiative, saying more surgery opportunities for retina patients will help not only the patients, but the rest of the system.
“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,” Williams said.
“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.”
The province said it would fund the surgical initiative with cost savings found through the AHS review, adding details will be part of the spring 2020 budget.