Opening of a new charter facility for orthopedic surgery in Edmonton

The move to do more surgeries at private facilities is part of the UCP government’s Alberta Surgical Initiative, announced in 2019

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A new charter facility for orthopedic surgeries will open this week in Edmonton.

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The Alberta Surgical Group (ASG) hosted a launch event for the private center on Saturday, with doctors behind the venture saying it will help build capacity for procedures such as hip and knee replacements.

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The Ellerslie facility has five operating rooms and, according to ASG, approximately 5,000 surgeries are expected to be scheduled there each year. Patients will receive care through the public system, with ASG operating under a contract with Alberta Health Services.

ASG COO and orthopedic surgeon Dr D’Arcy Durand said the hope is the center can be a ‘much needed pressure relief valve’ for hospitals, where surgeries like joint replacements have often had to be postponed during the pandemic of COVID-19 to ensure there was capacity to care for people who became seriously ill during multiple waves of the virus.

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“It was difficult. The AHS system is under strain, through no fault of its own,” Durand said.

He said he and other surgeons will now have an additional option to schedule patients’ procedures to work on their waiting lists.

“As an orthopedic surgeon, I am not up to what I could function and operate on. I am able, and I think many of my colleagues are able, to add a few days a month.

Besides hip and knee replacements, the ASG facility is equipped for certain spine surgeries and procedures such as arthroscopy and ligament reconstruction.

The decision to do more surgeries at private facilities is part of the UCP government’s Alberta Surgical Initiative, announced in 2019. It calls for partnerships with non-hospital health care clinics across the province to offer more surgeries. funded by the state.

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The plan drew criticism from at least one Medicare advocacy group who said contracting out surgeries would add complexity and inequity to the healthcare system, raising concerns about a slippery slope down payment for care.

The opposition NDP also questioned why new surgical facilities are not being built in the public system.

Alberta currently has more than 40 accredited surgical facilities under contract with AHS. All surgeries are performed at no cost to patients and facilities must be accredited by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta.

Health Minister Jason Copping was at the ASG event on Saturday, and he praised the planned work at the centre.

“We need to increase capacity and we need to use all the tools at our disposal – and that means contracting,” he said.

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“Subcontracted work. That’s why we do it, and we’re going to do more, including right here.

Copping said that in Alberta there are just over 69,000 patients waiting for surgery. It’s the first time this year that the number has fallen below 70,000, and it’s down from a peak of over 80,000 in the fall of 2021.

Earlier this year, the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) reported that in Alberta in 2021, only 59% of hip replacements and 49% of knee replacements were done within six months after that a surgeon has deemed necessary. Health systems across the country have struggled to regain pre-pandemic capacity for procedures such as joint replacements.

“The challenge of doing surgeries within the recommended wait times has been a challenge not just since COVID, but even before COVID,” Copping said.

“It’s a private clinic that is paid for by our public system. … What this will allow us to do is free up places in our hospitals.


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