Alberta Health says Red Deerians will have quicker access to elective surgery as part of an initiative announced Tuesday.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the province will boost work done by Alberta’s 42 private clinics, which handle knee and hip replacements, cataract removals and routine procedures and day surgeries, so 80,000 more surgeries can be done in the next three and a half years.
A statement from Shandro’s press secretary, Steve Buick, said Red Deer is among the sites where it expects to fund more surgeries.
“The exact allocation is still to be determined, but people in Red Deer can expect to see increased access,” Buick said.
“A key part of the plan is to take advantage of facilities outside Edmonton and Calgary, to give patients their surgery closer to home and at lower cost.”
He said some capital funding will be allocated as needed to support the planned increases in surgeries.
Red Deer surgeon Paul Hardy said Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre probably has to cancel more elective surgeries than other hospitals to make way for emergency surgeries, and one of the root causes of long waits for surgery has been insufficient investment in infrastructure and programs over the past decade.
More recently, the second operating room in the evening for emergencies was closed this fall, due to a lack of operating room nurses, he said.
“We had worked very hard to get a second evening theatre for emergencies,” Hardy said.
“We need AHS and nursing unions to get together and make innovative, concrete changes to have the nurses that we need, because we don’t right now. It brings back memories of the early ‘90s, when nurses all moved to the States. That was not a good thing.”
He said anything that can be done to improve access to surgery in Alberta is a good thing, but Red Deer does not have publicly funded, privately operated surgical facilities.
Hardy said over the past decade, surgeries have been moved to hospitals in Innisfail, Olds and Stettler, but the limit has been reached.
“Thousands of cases are being done in smaller centres by surgeons who travel from Red Deer. It didn’t really diminish our numbers in Red Deer much. It just filled the need.
“Now Red Deer has a much higher percentage of big surgery that can’t be done in smaller centres.”
AHS’s central zone administration faces many challenges, he said.
“They’ve made some difficult decisions cancelling elective surgery, but with the conditions we’re under, they’re doing an admirable job.”
— with files from The Canadian Press