HCAP: Lowering surgical wait times in Calgary

Press Release

Jan 23, 2023

Albertans will have access to thousands more publicly funded orthopedic surgeries at Calgary chartered surgical facilities as part of the Health Care Action Plan (HCAP).

Alberta has the best front-line health-care workers in the world, and Alberta’s government is working to ensure that Albertans have access to the care they need, when and where they need it.

“Albertans, many of whom are in pain, are waiting too long for life-changing knee and hip surgeries in Calgary. Our Health Care Action Plan will accelerate adding more surgeries both at hospitals across Alberta and at chartered surgical facilities to bring down wait times to the waiting period recommended by medical experts.”

Jason Copping, Minister of Health

“Today, we take an important step toward reducing surgical wait times for Albertans, which is one of the four priority areas that we’ve been focused on at AHS. Working with chartered surgical facility providers is another strategy to help Albertans get the surgeries they need faster.”

Dr. John Cowell, official administrator, Alberta Health Services

Decreasing surgical wait times was identified as a key priority in the Health Care Action Plan, released in November. To help achieve this goal, Alberta’s government is contracting more publicly funded surgeries from independent facilities.

Canadian Surgery Solutions will offer more than 3,000 additional hip and knee replacements and other joint procedures a year under a new contract with Alberta Health Services, starting this month.

“This contract will ensure AHS continues to improve access to surgical care for many Albertans. Our teams have been working hard to increase surgeries for Albertans, to bring down surgical wait times. Working with vendors such as Canadian Surgery Solutions will help us with this goal. Thank you to our partners and all of the teams at AHS who are working together to make this happen.”

Mauro Chies, interim president and CEO, Alberta Health Services

“This partnership demonstrates the value of working together to find solutions to improve access to orthopedic surgeries for all Albertans. Our operating rooms are equipped with the latest technology, and we are committed to providing the highest quality of care for all the patients at our Calgary surgical facilities.”

Dr. Mohamed Nanji, medical director, Canadian Surgery Solutions

The Health Care Action Plan provides a mandate for the AHS official administrator to lower surgery wait times to clinically recommended times. By performing more surgeries in unused operating rooms and chartered surgical facilities, Albertans will receive their surgeries sooner.

“Many patients who have received surgery within a chartered surgical facility such as this have had a positive experience with the care within the chartered surgical facility. I think that is due to the attention on the patient experience. We know that a focused team in a dedicated facility can lead to excellent results for patients.”

Dr. Jason Werle, orthopedic surgeon and section chief of orthopedic surgery, Calgary Zone, Alberta Health Services

Currently about 6,000 people in Calgary are waiting for orthopedic surgeries. More than half are waiting longer than the clinically appropriate time for knee and hip replacements. This contract will increase orthopedic procedures performed in the Calgary area by 21 per cent compared with 2021-22.

Streamlining surgery referrals

Albertans will now have quicker access to orthopedic surgeon and urologist referrals through a new program – the Alberta Facilitated Access to Specialized Treatment (FAST). Family doctors and other providers across Alberta can send referrals to the FAST central team, which then assigns the referral to a specialist with the shortest wait-list. The provincewide program was rolled out in phases starting in August and has since handled more than 18,500 referrals for a urologist or orthopedic surgeon.

Adding surgery capacity at hospitals

Several actions are underway to boost surgery capacity at hospitals, including extending main operating room surgical suite hours. New operating rooms are being added to hospitals across the province, including in Calgary, Edmonton, Edson, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Rocky Mountain House. Budget 2022 provides $133 million over three years to expand and build operating rooms. Moving more orthopedic surgeries and procedures into chartered surgical facilities will free up operating room space in hospitals to provide more complex surgeries.

Quick facts

  • Chartered surgical facilities have been offering publicly funded surgeries to Albertans since the 1990s.
  • The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta accredits chartered surgical facilities for quality and safety standards.
  • Canadian Surgery Solutions began welcoming patients for overnight orthopedic surgeries at one of its Calgary surgical facilities. The second facility, Rockyview Surgical Centre, is currently undergoing renovations to support overnight surgeries and is expected to reopen in early 2023.
  • About 21,200 people are waiting for orthopedic surgery in Alberta.
    • Hip replacements: for half of the patients, the wait was 44 weeks or less, and for nine out of 10 Albertans it was within 85 weeks, as of October 2022.
    • Knee replacements: for half of the patients, the wait was 33 weeks or less, and for nine out of 10 Albertans it was within 74 weeks, as of October 2022.
  • The adult surgical wait-list is currently at about 70,000 patients (as of Jan. 3).
  • About 20 per cent of surgeries in Alberta were performed in chartered facilities in 2021-22.
  • AHS schedules all surgeries through its system and determines whether a surgery will be performed at a hospital or a chartered surgical facility based on several factors including the type of surgery.
  • AHS also aims to expand surgery capacity in the Central and South zones. AHS has issued two requests for proposals for chartered surgical facilities, seeking 1,350 surgeries in the Central Zone and about 1,250 more procedures in the South Zone, ranging from hip and knee to general surgeries.

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