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Cancer surgeries exceeding pre-pandemic levels, says Alberta Health

12.5 per cent increase in cancer surgeries
Alberta Health says cancer surgery numbers went up 12.5 per cent over pre-COVID-19 levels. (File photo by BLACK PRESS)

Cancer surgeries in Alberta are now at nearly 115 per cent of pre-pandemic volumes, with an increased number completed within the clinically recommended time, says Alberta Health.

According to numbers released on Wednesday, cancer surgeries went up to about 22,500 from 20,000, a 12.5 per cent increase over pre-COVID-19 levels.

About 70 per cent of cancer patients also received their surgeries within the clinically recommended time in the 2021-22 fiscal year, compared with about 60 per cent in 2018-19.

Health Minister Jason Copping called it a remarkable accomplishment and shows meaningful results from the Alberta Surgical Initiative.

As part of the initiative, surgical capacity in hospitals, and the number of surgeries at chartered surgical facilities, have been increasing.

“Access to early detection and treatment is vital to improving the odds of overcoming a cancer diagnosis. Knowing wait times for cancer surgeries are decreasing in spite of the pandemic is a relief to patients in the most difficult times in their lives,” Copping said in a statement.


Red Deer still playing surgery catch up

Dr. Lloyd Mack, medical lead for Cancer Surgery Alberta, Alberta Health Services (AHS), said the number of people being diagnosed with cancer is increasing each year due to an aging population combined with population growth.

“Cancer treatment and care remains one of our highest priorities, and these procedures were prioritized throughout the pandemic to make sure that those who have the most urgent need go first,” Mack said.

Alberta Health says main operating room surgical suite hours have been increased at hospitals, which is steadily reducing the surgical wait-list.

AHS is performing an additional 30,000 ophthalmology procedures and 6,000 orthopedic procedures this fiscal year through new contracts with chartered surgical facilities. That’s in addition to providing quicker access to urology, orthopedic and ophthalmology surgeries by implementing a central access and intake model called the Alberta facilitated access to specialized treatment program.


Surgery backlog swells in Red Deer

The surgical wait-list currently sits at 6.7 per cent above pre-pandemic levels.

The total surgical wait-list for adults is about 72,600, compared with about 68,000 in February 2020, before the pandemic.

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