Interior Health is resuming elective surgeries beginning May 19. (Black Press Media Files)

Interior Health is resuming elective surgeries beginning May 19. (Black Press Media Files)

Alberta officials target surgical backlog

By the end of the year, as many surgeries will be provided as before the pandemic

By Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times

A backlog of non-urgent surgeries exists in Alberta due to COVID-19 shutdowns, but the province is working to increase surgical capacity to catch up.

Non-urgent, scheduled and elective surgeries were postponed across the province in response to the ongoing pandemic on March 17. Urgent and emergency surgeries, as well as oncology and scheduled caesarean (c-section) procedures were said not to be affected.

This policy was maintained until May 4, when it was announced that non-urgent, scheduled surgeries would resume. However, this interruption resulted in a backlog of about 25,000 surgeries for Albertans.

The province is now making moves to reduce the backlog and expedite health care into the future by expanding surgical capacity, announced Tyler Shandro, minister of health, during a Sept. 11 news conference.

AHS has already completed about 90 per cent of the cases of non-urgent scheduled surgeries that were cancelled during the shutdown in the spring. Surgical capacity is now at about 80 per cent of pre-pandemic levels and is increasing, he said.

By the end of the year, as many surgeries will be provided as before the pandemic. Then, after the new year, hospitals and publicly funded chartered surgical facilities will expand capacity beyond pre-pandemic levels, resulting in reduced wait times.

The province is working to fund more surgeries, including lower-risk surgeries in rural hospitals, and expand surgical capacity by creating new chartered surgical facilities and expanding existing ones, which will happen in both urban and rural communities across the province.

Chartered surgical facilities are private, non-hospital health facilities managed offering publicly funded procedures, of which there are currently 43 in Alberta performing about 15 per cent of surgeries.

“This work with the chartered surgical facilities is key, since they will have the capacity to do more surgeries at lower cost,” said Shandro.

The province is seeking requests for proposals (RFPs) from operators to expand or open facilities. A request for expressions of interest yielded 42 submissions from existing chartered surgical facilities or new operators to provide up to 200,000 more surgeries across Alberta, according to a government news release.

New grants are also being provided to six First Nations, including Siksika Nation, to develop proposals under the RFP. “We want to work with any partner who wants to work with us to increase capacity in the publicly funded health system and to reduce costs,” said Shandro.

Developing surgical capacity in Siksika Nation has been in the works to better meet the needs of its aging population that now must travel to seek health care, explained Ouray Crowfoot, chief of Siksika Nation. “We’ve been looking at initiatives and joint ventures, and we’ve had these business plans for some time now, on how we can move forward with a surgical facility,” he said.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Seniors in the 65-unit Piper Creek Lodge are among those waiting for COVID-19 vaccinations. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Central Alberta senior lodges anxiously waiting for COVID-19 vaccinations

“Should be at the front of the line, not the back of the line”

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alex Panetta
Economists “cautiously hopeful” for economic recovery in Alberta

Charles St. Arnaud says Alberta’s recovery will rebound along with roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw acknowledged that Friday would be one year since the first case of COVID-19 was identified in the province. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Three more Red Deer COVID-19 deaths, 331 active cases in Alberta

Red Deer is down to 362 active cases of the virus

The concept design for the spray park and playground in Pogadl Park. (Photo Courtesy of Canadian Recreation Solutions)
Sylvan Lake spray park tentatively scheduled to open next year

Sylvan Lake Town Council approved the tender of the spray park and playground in Pogadl Park

Caitlin Kraft, the sister of Jeffery Kraft, stands third from the left, holding a sign calling for the maximum sentence for Campbell, who is charged with manslaughter. (Photo by Paul Cowley)
UPDATED: Judge again rejects submission of 7-year sentence for slaying of Kraft

Tyler John Campbell charged with second-degree murder for December 2019 homicide

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Pictured here is Stettler’s Jenner Smith with a guide dog from Aspen Service Dogs. An online auction will be running soon to help raise funds for Jenner to receive his very own service dog later this year. Jenner, who is four years old, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2019. photo submitted
An online auction is planned to raise funds for a service dog for a Stettler family

Jenner Smith, four, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2019

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

This Dec. 2, 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of its Janssen subsidiary’s COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Johnson & Johnson via AP
Canada approves Johnson & Johnson’s 1-shot COVID-19 vaccine

It is the 4th vaccine approved in Canada and the 1st that requires just a single dose

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

Backcountry skiers are dwarfed by the mountains as they make their way along a mountain ridge near McGillivray Pass Lodge located in the southern Chilcotin Mountains of British Columbia, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012. Avalanche Canada has issued a special warning to people who use the backcountry in the mountains of western Alberta and eastern British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Avalanche Canada special warning for mountains in western Alberta, eastern B.C.

Avalanche Canada also says everyone in a backcountry party needs essential rescue gear

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

hands
The call is out in Rimbey to sign on with a group that is all about building connections

‘Already, we are building a network where we can rely on each other and help each other out’

Most Read