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UCP plan to improve surgical wait times faces criticism

The UCP government has outlined its plan to use more than $600 million dollars to improve surgical wait times in the province.

“It recognizes the need to put patients first and to manage capacity,” said Adriana LaGrange, Alberta’s health minister on Tuesday.

The money was announced in the spring budget to be spent over three years.

$313 million will be used to renovate surgical suites and support areas.

“Alberta Infrastructure is now working on 20 projects in 11 different communities, not just in our major cities,” said Alberta Infrastructure Minister Pete Guthrie.

Another $305 million will go to Alberta Health Services allowing more than 300,000 surgeries to happen this year. Roughly 20 per cent of them would be completed at chartered surgical facilities that receive funding from the province but are privately owned.

“Is the consequence now that you are pushing more of your workforce say, anesthesiologists to specific operations?” asked Luanne Metz, the Alberta NDP health critic.

Many are concerned it will push more health care workers to the private facilities at a time when the public sector needs them.

“They are able to attract workforce from the public system which again hobbles the public system,” Heather Smith, president of the United Nurses of Alberta said.

“I haven’t worked a shift in three months where there hasn’t been a workforce shortage of some kind,” said Dr. Warren Thirsk, an emergency room doctor at the Royal Alexandra Hospital.

Dr. Thirsk said he has also heard of incidents where someone had private surgery, whether in Alberta, Canada or internationally that resulted in complications.

“Requiring further care in the public system or with severe significant or even life-threatening complications,” he said. “This is a common occurrence.”

The health minister and an interim vice-president for emergency medical services at AHS said cases completed at chartered facilities that end up back in an ER because of complications are tracked.

CTV News Edmonton has asked and is still waiting for that data.

As of March 61 per cent of surgeries were completed within clinically recommended wait times compared to 52 per cent last year, according to AHS.

They also said there were 4,400 fewer cases waiting longer than what is recommended compared to a year ago.

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Chelan Skulski

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