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Increasing publicly funded orthopedic surgeries

Provincial Press Release July 22, 2021 @ 12:03 pm published 12:17pm


Increasing orthopedic procedures in chartered surgical facilities (CSF) will reduce wait times for publicly funded high-need surgeries such as hip and knee surgeries.


A new request for proposal (RFP) focuses on expanding orthopedic procedures in Edmonton and Calgary zones. Facilities in these areas have the skills and resources to increase surgical capacity quickly while maintaining high-quality care for Albertans. This is part of the Alberta Surgical Initiative (ASI) to ensure all Albertans receive scheduled surgeries within clinically appropriate targets. A similar RFP was released for ophthalmology surgeries in April 2021.


“We know timely access to surgeries is important to Albertans and significantly impacts their quality of life. Many orthopedic surgeries have long wait-lists, with many Albertans waiting longer than experts determine is clinically appropriate. CSFs are one way to add capacity for publicly funded surgeries and are also a part of our surgical recovery planning.” Tyler Shandro, Minister of Alberta Health

“This expansion will improve Albertans’ access to orthopedic procedures, reduce wait times for surgery for patients and provide capacity for procedures requiring hospital care. High-quality, safe care for Albertans is always our top priority.” Verna Yiu, president and CEO, Alberta Health Services


Currently, all publicly funded orthopedic surgeries take place in AHS facilities. This RFP is an innovative way to provide safe, low-risk surgeries without cost to patients by using chartered surgical facilities. This will allow hospitals to focus on emergency and more complex surgeries.


As part of the RFP process, physicians were engaged over several months to provide their advice on what procedures could be safely moved out of the hospital setting. All successful facilities will follow AHS policies and practices, ensuring Albertans continue to receive consistent, safe, high-quality care. AHS will continue to perform more complex orthopedic surgeries in hospitals.


The Alberta Surgical Initiative is focused on increasing and improving access for Albertans to all surgeries across the province, starting with those surgeries with the longest wait-list. While the initial expansion of procedures is in Edmonton and Calgary, there will be opportunities to expand surgeries in all zones in time. Additional RFP opportunities for CSF providers in other regional centres and for different types of surgeries are expected in the fall.


In addition to increasing capacity at CSFs, Alberta’s government has invested $120 million in capital funding over three years in AHS-owned facilities under the Alberta Surgical Initiative to reduce wait times for more complex surgeries that cannot be performed in CSFs.


Quick facts

  • Alberta first began offering some publicly funded surgical procedures in chartered surgical facilities in the early 1990s.

  • That contracted work has grown over the decades, with 43 chartered surgical facilities now under contract with AHS to provide ophthalmological and dermatological surgeries, ear, nose and throat surgeries, oral and maxillofacial surgeries, some gynecological surgeries and reconstructive plastic surgeries.

  • These are publicly funded procedures performed in private facilities in the community, which allows AHS – like many other health systems across Canada – to expand surgeries and reduce wait times.

  • Surgical wait times have been impacted by the pandemic, with the total surgical backlog in Alberta estimated at approximately 40,000. AHS is currently working through the province’s surgical backlog and is leading the country in eliminating this backlog. AHS is now exceeding 100 per cent of monthly pre-pandemic surgical volumes.

  • The final cost per procedure will be determined through contract negotiations once successful proponents have been identified. Costs will be less than historical costs in hospital and volume increases will allow better pricing per procedure. Savings will be reinvested into additional surgeries.

  • The total contract spend available for orthopedic surgeries in chartered surgical facilities for the 2021-22 fiscal year is approximately $13 million.

  • As part of this expansion, the amount available for orthopedic surgeries in chartered surgical facilities is approximately $140 million over seven years.

  • As of July 2021, there are approximately 10,000 patients waiting for knee surgeries in the province, with 45 per cent of those waiting outside of the clinically appropriate target wait time. Additionally, there are approximately 3,500 patients waiting for hip surgery, with 40 per cent of those waiting outside of the clinically appropriate target wait time. The target is within 26 weeks, depending on the severity of illness or injury.

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