Alberta looking to perform more surgeries at independent clinics

Jan 31 2020, 2:31 pm

Alberta’s provincial government looking to increase the number of surgeries performed at independent clinics in an effort to cut down wait times.

In an announcement Friday, officials said they’re looking for expressions of interest from  clinics that think they’re able to provide those services outside of a hospital setting.

“We’re eager to hear from independent providers who want to help us improve access,” Minister of Health Tyler Shandro said in a news release. “We’re going to make the best use of hospitals and independent providers to give every patient the right care in the right setting, and give Albertans the best access to surgery in Canada.”

The province would create contracts with the independent providers so that patients’ provincial health insurance would still cover the procedures.

But Sandra Azocar, executive director of Friends of Medicare that advocates for public health care, says this move is a discouraging “privatization experiment.”

“Whenever you have a private company, the goal to make profit,” she told Daily Hive in an interview. “Patients’ needs and safety are sometimes are impacted.”

She also worries that independent clinics will be concentrated in large population centres, not improving access for rural Albertas.

Last year, 40,000 surgeries were carried out at 42 independent clinics in Alberta. That’s about 14% of all surgeries that happened in the province.

Right now, non-hospital surgery clinics perform low-risk day surgeries. Alberta Health Services is also exploring whether more involved surgeries such as hip and knee replacements could be performed outside of hospitals.

Clinics have until February 28, 2020 to submit expressions of interest to the province.