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On Feb. 16, Alberta Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky announced $8 million in funding to cut down surgical waiting lists. ((CBC))

Alberta's health minister says wait-times for people needing spinal surgery should be getting shorter soon.

Gene Zwozdesky said he has been getting calls saying a surgical blitz that began last month has "moved people up the list in some cases by as much as a year."

That $8-million blitz was aimed at hip and knee replacements as well as urgent cancer cases because that's what doctors recommended, Zwozdesky said Wednesday.

"Doctors said 'these are surgeries that we can move people along safely and efficiently and let's get at it,' because we've got the time, we've got the space, we've got the people, we've go the will, and we've got the money to do it."

But a Calgary doctor who specializes in orthopedic surgery said wait times for spinal surgery have been steadily growing in his practice.

"I remember first coming to the city nine, 10 years ago and on average my waiting list for the first three or four years probably was about six months." said Dr. Roger Cho. Now, he said, it's three times that long.

His patients have usually exhausted any other possible medical treatment before they resort to surgery, he said.

"By the time they show up at my doorstep, they're pretty bad," he said. "Most of these people are off work, they're having significant financial and personal issues. Yeah, it's a big problem."

Alberta's population growth is putting pressure on surgical wait times, Zwozdesky said. But he said the shorter wait lists for other surgeries should have an impact across the board.

"We're also looking to recruit more doctors and nurses and so on to cope with this," he said.

Zwozdesky said he will meet with the Alberta Health Services board over the next two days to plan what should be the next priorities.