Surgeries may come to Bigstone Health, in Edmonton

Leader staff

The Alberta government is asking First Nations to consider being part of the solution to long surgical wait times. This includes Bigstone Cree Nation, which has a reserve northeast of Slave Lake in the Wabasca-Desmarais, Calling Lake, and Sandy Lake area.

The medical clinic being considered for offering AHS surgeries, however, is in Edmonton. Bigstone Health Commission has two medical – clinics one in Wabasca and the other in Edmonton.

In order to meet the requirement for the surgeries, says the Nov. 6 Alberta government news release, the medical facilities have to be close to a large city hospital and have a surgical director.

“I look forward to being part of the province’s plan to reduce surgical wait times,” says Bigstone chief Silas Yellowknee, in the news release. “Bigstone Cree Nation is a leader in health-care delivery, offering a full range of health services both on and off reserve. Our First Nation members, and everyone on and off reserve, deserve to have their surgeries quickly so they can get back on their feet and spend quality time with their families.”

The matter isn’t done and dusted, but in the early stages of application.

The Nov. 6 media release announced $50,000 grants to Bigstone and five other First Nations “to help them develop proposals for chartered surgical facilities that could offer publicly-funded surgeries to people on and off reserve.”

Later this fall, Alberta Health Services (AHS) will be requesting proposals from First Nations and other health care providers. The goal is to “expand existing chartered surgical facilities or open new ones to offer thousands more surgeries.”

Quick facts
· Right now, 43 chartered surgical facilities work under contract with AHS to provide publicly funded surgeries in the fields of ophthalmology, dermatology, ear, nose and throat, oral and maxillofacial (upper jaw and facial) surgery, gynecology (female reproductive system), and reconstructive plastic surgery.

· AHS is currently operating at almost 90 per cent of pre-COVID surgical volume compared with the low of 40 per cent early in the pandemic. AHS continues to increase volume and is targeting 100 per cent pre-COVID levels before the end of the year.

· AHS will then aim to exceed pre-COVID surgical volumes early in 2021, reaching 125 per cent – and up to 150 per cent if required – in order to reach 2023 Alberta Surgical Initiative targets.

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