Province to spend $100M on operating rooms to shorten wait times

The Alberta government will spend $100 million constructing and renovating operating rooms in Edmonton, Calgary, Grande Prairie and elsewhere, Premier Jason Kenney says.

The investment is part of a reorganization of Alberta operating rooms to equip more urban hospitals to handle complex surgeries, Health Minister Tyler Shandro told reporters at Edmonton’s Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute on Wednesday.

“Albertans are going to get quicker access to surgeries they need closer to home,” Shandro said.

The money will cover upgrades of operating rooms in Edmonton’s Royal Alexandra Hospital and the University of Alberta Hospital, including the addition of a new operating room.

Calgary’s Foothills Medical Centre will see upgrades to 12 operating rooms. Surgical suites in Grande Prairie, Rocky Mountain House, Edson, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat will also be renovated.

The changes will allow Alberta Health Services to shuffle more routine procedures to smaller hospitals in Fort Saskatchewan, Edmonton’s Grey Nuns Hospital, and the Sturgeon Community Hospital in St. Albert.

Tweaking where surgeries are performed

The changes are part of a new provincial surgical care initiative, which aims to shorten wait lists by spending $500 million over the next three years. The approach is similar to a Saskatchewan program that ran between 2010 and 2014 to whittle down wait times.

Dr. Verna Yiu, CEO of Alberta Health Services, said Alberta will need more doctors and other health professionals working in the province to tackle the growing number of planned surgeries. That news comes at a time when family doctors are in an uproar about the government’s changes to how they are paid.

The government had already announced in last week’s budget it intends to double the number of surgeries performed in private clinics. By 2023, 30 per cent of Alberta surgeries would be done outside of hospitals, if the government achieves this goal.

In its 2019 election platform, the United Conservative Party pledged to reduce surgery wait times to no more than four months within four years of taking office. Its goal was to reduce the number of people waiting more than three months by 75 per cent by the end of government’s first term.

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