Further surgery cancellations likely, predicts former Alberta chief medical officer of health

Alberta's former chief medical officer of health expects the number of delayed surgeries and procedures will continue to rise unless case numbers start to drop. 

30% of surgeries already delayed in some areas as COVID-19 hospitalizations rise

Nurses prepare before attending to a COVID-19 patient on the ICU at Peter Lougheed Centre in Calgary on Nov. 14, 2020. (Submitted by AHS/Leah Hennel)

Alberta's former chief medical officer of health expects the number of delayed surgeries and procedures will continue to rise unless COVID-19 case numbers start to drop. 

Alberta Health Services announced Tuesday it was postponing up to 30 per cent of surgeries in the Calgary, Edmonton and North zones, as well as some non-urgent procedures and ambulatory appointments. 

The change is meant to make room for a possible influx of COVID-19 hospitalizations.

"It will have an impact. I think the more troubling thing is that it's not likely to stop at 30 per cent territory," said Dr. James Talbot, who co-chairs the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association's COVID-19 committee. He was previously the chief medical officer of health for the province.

As of late Tuesday, there were 635 people in hospital with COVID-19 across the province, 143 of whom were in intensive care.

The average age of patients in hospital was 56 — much younger than in earlier waves of the pandemic.

AHS says the cancelled procedures will be rebooked as soon as possible.

Last month, Alberta committed to providing tens of thousands of additional surgeries in the coming year to clear its pandemic backlog of 36,000 surgeries.

CBC News has reached out to AHS to ask how many surgeries the cancellations will add to the total backlog. 


  • An earlier version of this story said admissions to ICUs for COVID-19 across Alberta were at their highest levels ever, but that is incorrect.
    Apr 28, 2021 2:23 PM MT

With files from Sarah Rieger

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