Surgery relief, or splitting hairs?

Paying private clinics to help reduce wait-lists for surgery is another step in the wrong direction for public health care, says the president of the Central Alberta Council on Aging.

Registered nurse Maylan Campbell

Registered nurse Maylan Campbell

Paying private clinics to help reduce wait-lists for surgery is another step in the wrong direction for public health care, says the president of the Central Alberta Council on Aging.

On Tuesday, the province announced it would spend $8 million on a six-week plan through March 31 to immediately increase the number of surgeries in high-priority areas, including urgent cancer surgery, hip and knee replacement, heart surgery, and other procedures.

Some of the joint replacements and cataract surgeries will be done in private clinics.

But increasing surgeries at private clinics means less of that money will go towards helping Albertans, said Sam Denhaan.

“The mark-up comes directly out of the budget, that wouldn’t be necessary if the public system dealt with it,” said Sam Denhaan on Wednesday.

“We have to keep a close eye on how (Alberta Health Services CEO Stephen Duckett) spends that money.”

At least 2,230 more surgeries and non-surgical procedures with long wait lists have been approved so far. About 3,500 more MRI and CT scans will also be added immediately.

Denhaan said he knows some people will “roll their eyes” when they hear his concern and ask “why are you splitting hairs?”

“Well, these are pretty important hairs.”

Lyle Keewatin Richards, who is scheduled for knee replacement surgery next week, said he has nothing bad to say about the Alberta’s health care system.

Last fall he was scheduled for the February surgery at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

“You have to put me down as a satisfied customer,” Keewatin Richards said.

But he wants the public health care system to be maintained instead of the putting more money into the private system.

“Why would you make profit off of the suffering of others?” said the Red Deer resident.

“American-style health care in Canada is just wrong.”

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com