EDMONTON — Opposition politicians attacked Alberta Health Minister Ron Liepert on Wednesday amid news an Edmonton hospital will cut elective surgeries by 15 per cent.
Both Liberal Leader David Swann and NDP Leader Brian Mason demanded to know why surgeries at the Royal Alexandra Hospital have to be pared back when the province shells out $13 billion annually for health care.
“Wait times in Edmonton and Calgary emergency rooms are approaching 24 hours,” NDP Leader Brian Mason charged in the legislature.
“Now the government is cancelling 15 per cent of elective surgeries … wait times for hip and knee replacement and cataract surgery will go through the roof.
“Why have you again failed Albertans leaving them waiting in pain and darkness because you’re cancelling their surgeries?”
Liepert said it’s simply a move by Alberta Health Services to live within its budget that has actually been boosted in this fiscal year.
Liepert said the Alberta Health Services board has given a directive to health-care providers to keep spending levels in this first quarter of this year to the same levels as last year’s fourth quarter.
He said the hospital chose to cancel surgeries to make those targets. He said urgent-care surgeries are not affected.
Swann said the cuts to elective surgeries are all the more disappointing because the hospital was finally functioning at optimal levels.
“My understanding is that the surgical suites finally got up to full function in the last couple of months,” said Swann, who is also a medical doctor.
The United Nurses of Alberta suggested Wednesday that more health cuts could be in store.
“I don’t think this is limited to the Royal Alexandra, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was extended provincewide,” said union spokeswoman Heather Smith.
Her prediction was disputed by Alberta Health Services spokesman Rob Stevenson.
He said there’s no indication the cuts will spread to other facilities.
(Edmonton Sun, CTV Edmonton)