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TheRockies.Life Staff

Alberta Surgical Initiative Backfires

The Alberta Surgical Initiative was meant to improve surgical capacity, but a new report shows it has done the opposite

The Alberta Surgical Initiative (ASI) was introduced in 2019 by the UCP under former Premier Jason Kenney’s leadership. The ASI aims to ensure timely access to surgeries by outsourcing publicly funded surgeries to private facilities. 

According to information obtained by Andrew Longhurst, a health researcher and political economist, the ASI has resulted in the total opposite. 

In his report, “Failing to Deliver, The Alberta Surgical Initiative and Declining Surgical Capacity,” Longhurst documents that the province’s total surgical activity actually declined in the first three years of the UCP program.

member of the alberta union of provincial employees with a sign at a rally
Member of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees at a rally | AUPE | Twitter

Instead of increasing surgical capacity, the ASI has allegedly diverted resources away from public hospitals and decreased surgical volume across the province.

Why is this?

“There is a limited pool of specialized healthcare professionals…Outsourcing surgeries leads to competition between public and for-profit sectors for the same professionals,” comments Longhurst.

“The province has prioritized for-profit surgical delivery…rather than fully utilizing the nearly 30 percent of unused public operating room capacity,” continues Longhurst. 

These specialized healthcare professionals can only be in one place at a time. As a result, they are pulled from the public health care system and put into for-profit surgical centres. 

While surgical volumes increased by 48% in for-profit surgical facilities between 2018-2019 and 2021-2022, they decreased by 12% in public hospitals during the same period. 

So someone’s getting rich, but more Albertans suffer.

Last year, Alberta’s heath care system came close to having the worst performance for priority procedures in all of Canada. For example, the number of patients receiving timely hip replacement surgeries dropped from 64% to 38% since the ASI was introduced. 

“Alberta now has among the worst performance in reducing wait times in Canada,” Longhurst writes in his report. 

According to Longhurst, wait times for all other kinds of surgical procedures have increased except for cataract surgeries. 

In February, Premier Danielle Smith claimed there is no longer a crisis. Longhurst’s report says otherwise. The ASI clearly isn’t the solution, so what is?  


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