A new report on the state of Alberta’s surgical capacity argues that funding and staffing have been diverted to chartered surgical facilities at the expense of public hospitals.
Failing to Deliver: The Alberta Surgical Initiative and Declining Surgical Capacity, by Parkland Institute, says surgical cases at chartered surgical facilities increased 48 per cent, and public payments to for-profit facilities climbed 61 per cent between 2018-19 and 2021-22.
At the same time, public hospital surgical activity declined 12 per cent as the public sector faced reduced capacity and operating room funding.
According to data obtained through Freedom of Information requests, total surgical activity actually declined in the first three years of the UCP’s Alberta Surgical Initiative instead of increasing surgical capacity.
The report says public contracts for surgical outsourcing could reach $78 million in 2022-2023 while staffing and funding levels in public AHS facilities have declined.
David Shepherd, Alberta NDP candidate for Edmonton-City Centre and health critic, said the UCP has chosen to actively undermine the public health care system by fixating on the drastic expansion of profit-driven, privately owned or operated surgical facilities.
“Once again the government seems to be putting their political objectives ahead of actually providing better care for Albertans,” Shepherd said.
“As an NDP government, we’re going to be thoughtful, practical and pragmatic. We are not looking to create chaos the way the UCP government did by tearing up systems, tearing up programs, simply on an ideological whim.”
He said when the NDP was in charge it did not close privately-owned or operated surgical facilities, nor cancel contracts.
“We worked with the system that was in place and made further investments to increase access to care. That is the intention of an Alberta NDP government. We will work with the resources that are currently available, and we will look for new opportunities that are publicly owned and publicly operated,” Shepherd said.
According to a recent update from Alberta Health Services, fewer people are waiting for surgeries than before the pandemic, and fewer are waiting longer than clinically recommended.
As of April 17, 53 per cent of people were waiting within the clinically recommended wait times.
More children and cardiac patients are also receiving their surgeries faster. Almost 75 per cent of pediatric patients are now waiting within the clinically recommended surgical target, and 86 per cent of cardiac patients are waiting within the target.