Surgery volumes in Alberta back above pre-pandemic levels

In this file photo, doctors perform an open heart surgery in San Salvador on Thursday, July 3, 2008. (AP / Luis Romero)

Surgeries in Alberta are back to 100 per cent capacity and officials say the province is leading the country when it comes to eliminating the COVID-19 surgical backlog.

The province says five to 10 per cent of surgeries were delayed in Alberta during the pandemic, compared to between 30 and 60 per cent in Ontario, B.C. and Quebec.

Around 40,000 surgeries were delayed in Alberta over the last 16 months. That includes 25,000 in the first wave in spring 2020, which have now been completed, along with another 5,000 in the second wave and 10,000 in the third wave.

Of those postponed in the second and third waves, 95 per cent have now been rescheduled.

"As the pandemic recedes, Alberta’s government will be pushing as hard as we can to ensure that any delayed surgeries are completed as fast as possible," said Health Minister Tyler Shandro in a release.

"Thanks to the incredible dedication of surgical teams in AHS and at chartered surgical facilities, we are getting closer and closer to that goal.”

No urgent or emergency surgeries were delayed, and cancer surgeries continued through the pandemic.

The province has also implemented the Alberta Surgical Initiative, which officials say "will provide all Albertans the surgeries they need within recommended wait times."

“By carefully reducing the number of surgeries being performed in response to the pandemic, we were able to increase capacity in our intensive care units and ensure people with COVID-19 who needed ICU care could receive it," said Dr. Verna Yiu, president and CEO of Alberta Health Services.

"Now, we are able to focus on our surgical recovery plan. I am so proud of our teams who continue to work hard to ensure Albertans have high-quality care.”