Alberta Health redirects thousands of orthopedic surgeries to independent clinics to tackle backlog

Alberta Health says it will contract out thousands of orthopedic surgeries to chartered surgical facilities in Calgary.

Health Minister Jason Copping says more than 3,000 publicly funded hip and knee surgeries will be done at Canadian Surgery Solutions, an independent health-care facility.

He says that’s in addition to the surgeries already being done in Calgary hospitals.

“Albertans, many of whom are in pain, are waiting too long for life-changing knee and hip surgeries in Calgary,” Copping said. 

“Our Health Care Action Plan will accelerate adding more surgeries both at hospitals across Alberta and at chartered surgical facilities to bring down wait times to the waiting period recommended by medical experts.”

The province said there are about 6,000 people in Calgary waiting for orthopedic surgeries.

More than half of them are waiting longer than the clinically appropriate time for knee and hip replacements. The contract announced on Monday will increase orthopedic procedures performed in the Calgary area by 21 per cent compared with 2021-22, Alberta Health said in a statement.

The Opposition NDP says the United Conservative government’s plan expands surgical privatization.

David Shepherd, health critic for the NDP, says it will do lasting harm to Alberta’s public health-care system and ultimately lead to more out-of-pocket costs for Albertans.

He says it also takes staff and resources away from the public system, which is already experiencing staffing shortages.

A man wearing a blue suit and blue striped tie speaks at a microphone set up in a hospital room.
Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping makes an announcement Monday regarding the plan to provide more publicly-funded orthopedic surgeries at chartered surgical facilities in Calgary. (CBC)

Copping disagreed, saying they are contracting additional resources to build up the system.

“This is no different than going to see your family doctor,” he said. “That’s paid through our health-care system, and it’s a private corporation.”

The government said several actions are underway to boost surgical capacity at hospitals, including extending main operating room surgical suite hours.

They are also adding new operating rooms to hospitals across the province, including in Calgary, Edmonton, Edson, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Rocky Mountain House.

Moving more orthopedic surgeries and procedures into chartered surgical facilities will free up operating room space in hospitals to provide more complex surgeries, the government said.

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