Alberta Health Services (AHS) will be contracting out 3,000 orthopedic surgeries per year to an independent health-care facility, which officials said will boost the number of operations and free up hospital space.
The contract with Calgary-based Canadian Surgery Solutions (CSS) will increase total orthopedic surgeries in the city by 21 percent, said Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping in a press conference on Jan. 23.
Copping said the province will also open 11 new operating rooms at Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary by 2025, while also expanding and building new operating rooms in Edmonton, Edson, Grand Prairie, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, and Rocky Mountain House.
“We need to get wait times down and that means we need to fund more surgeries,” he said.
“We need to add ORs and hospitals and contracts charter surgical facilities to add this capacity. We need to look for unused capacity, especially in smaller communities, and use it if we possibly can,” he added.
Copping said the contract with CSS is part of the Alberta Surgical Initiative (ASI) that seeks to clear surgical backlogs and reduce waitlists. The procedures will be publicly funded, he noted.
“Contracted facilities and hospitals are managed in common through our publicly-funded health-care system,” Copping said.
“Contracted services are publicly funded services. Just like in hospitals, patients are assessed and waitlisted in common, and they get care from the same surgeons according to the same clinical standards.”
The health minister noted that there are currently 6,000 people waiting for orthopedic surgeries in Calgary alone.
Copping said AHS has restored surgery volumes to the pre-pandemic levels of 2018 and 2019. The total waitlist also shrank from 81,000 in the fall of 2021, to between 68,000 to 70,000 in recent months.
When the pandemic first struck Alberta in March 2020, the surgery waitlist was at 68,000, which climbed to roughly 81,000 by fall 2021, Copping said in a December 2021 press conference.
During this period, Alberta launched ASI, which has explored collaboration with chartered surgical facilities. These facilities performed roughly 40,000 publicly funded surgeries in 2019, according to an August 2020 report from the provincial health department.
In the report, Copping said these chartered facilities will complete 30 percent of medically necessary scheduled surgeries by 2023.
Opposition health critic NDP MLA David Shepherd told reporters on Jan. 23 that contracting CSS for orthopedic surgeries will take resources away from the public system, adding that the United Conservative Party has not explained why it did not increase the capacity within the public health system, reported Global News.
“It’s clear private companies exist to make a profit. Every dollar is $1 taken out of the public system,” he said.