Calgary will receive surgical patients from Saskatchewan, raising concerns among Alberta doctors

Saskatchewan is preparing to send surgical patients to Calgary to help reduce its backlog – a strategy that worries some Alberta surgeons.

This week, Saskatchewan’s Minister of Health announced that the province would temporarily hire a private clinic in Calgary in the fall to perform 20 to 25 knee and hip replacement surgeries per month, although the government will not cover no travel costs.

“This option would be offered to patients, on an entirely voluntary basis, who have waited the longest for their joint replacement procedures as work is underway to accelerate expansion plans at public and private facilities across Saskatchewan” , the Saskatchewan Health Authority told CBC News.

He declined to name the Calgary facility in question, saying further details would be announced once contracts are finalized.

“My reaction is mostly sadness in that this is clearly an act of utter desperation,” said Dr. John Fernandes, family physician and specialist in office surgery at the Northwest Surgical Clinic in Calgary. .

“None of this is manageable in any way. What’s going to happen is that for every patient coming from Saskatchewan, there’s potentially a patient from Alberta who won’t be able to access this type of surgery.”

He noted that Alberta also faces similar issues and frequently has to refer patients out of the province for surgeries.

The Alberta government says the “small number of surgeries involved” in the Saskatchewan contract should have no impact on efforts to reduce Alberta’s surgical waiting list. Just under 72,000 adults are waiting for procedures in Alberta.

“Alberta was aware that Saskatchewan issued a Request for Proposals late last year to contract Canadian accredited surgical centers. However, Alberta Health was unaware that an Alberta facility would fulfill this contract. “, Health Minister Jason Copping’s office said.

He added that Saskatchewan is communicating with Alberta about the upcoming initiative.

Shortage of staff, availability of surgeons worrying

Dr. Anthony Gomes, head of the Alberta Medical Association’s division of general surgery, explained that patients who have private surgeries usually go through an employer or workers’ compensation, not the waiting list. public. However, he said the demand for surgeons, operating room nurses and anesthesiologists could impact Alberta patients.

“It takes surgeons away from the work they might be doing in public hospitals,” he said.

“Our system does not have the resources to cope with the number of patients who need procedures.”

The Alberta government is also contracting out procedures to licensed surgical facilities to reduce the backlog, but only in the province. Some specialized procedures not available in Alberta, such as for rare cancers, are routinely referred to other provinces.

Copping’s office says the total number of orthopedic and eye surgeries performed this fiscal year will be 44% higher than last year, reducing the pandemic backlog. More than 87,000 surgeries were performed between April and August.

These contractual strategies, according to Fernandes, point to a health care system that is in desperate need of reform.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that there’s no solution with the current design of our healthcare system, and it’s going to crumble in different areas, like a pile of dominoes.”

Gomes agreed that something had to change to effectively reduce wait times for needed surgeries.

“There needs to be long-term thinking and long-term investment. And it needs to be aligned with patient needs.”

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