Edmonton

Private orthopedic surgical facility coming to Enoch Cree Nation next year

The First Nation west of Edmonton has partnered with a company called Surgical Centres Inc. to build the chartered facility on its land over the next 14 months. Surgical Centres Inc. wants to perform about 3,000 procedures a year. 

Government says facility can deliver less complicated surgeries at a lower cost

Enoch Cree Chief Billy Morin speaks at an announcement about a new private surgical facility in the First Nation west of Edmonton. (Manuel Carrillos/CBC)

A private surgical centre in Enoch Cree Nation intends to start offering publicly-funded hip and knee replacement surgeries next year. 

The First Nation west of Edmonton has partnered with a company called Surgical Centres Inc. to build the chartered facility on its land over the next 14 months. Surgical Centres Inc. wants to perform about 3,000 procedures a year. 

The Alberta government says this type of private health facility can perform simple procedures faster and more cheaply than public hospitals. Patients will still have their surgeries funded by medicare. Publicly funded hospitals will still handle more complicated surgeries.

Health Minister Jason Copping said the facility will use existing surgeons who will still continue to work at hospitals. 

Copping said the facility will be more efficient by performing a small range of orthopedic surgeries.

"The surgeons can get more surgeries done in a particular day because that's all they're going to do," he said. 

Enoch Chief Billy Morin said the facility is partnered with Alberta Health Services and will meet standards set by the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

"We feel like we're adding capacity. We feel like we're being team players," he said. "We feel that we can add to the team at AHS and the government of Alberta and the physicians and the nurses."

Morin said the plan is to offer a more enhanced experience for patients.

"When an Indigenous person from High Level comes here they're going to get not just a fancy building with nice Indigenous pictures, they're going to get a new experience where they're going to have a Dene person talking to them," he said. "They're going to have traditional healing and medicine right here on the First Nation." 

Although the centre was procured through a request for proposal, the government isn't releasing the value of the contract. The cost of constructing the facility is borne by the project partners. 

The Alberta government first issued a call for providers to operate private surgical facilities in 2020, but the initiative was delayed due to the pandemic. 

In November 2020, the province provided $50,000 grants to six Alberta First Nations, including Enoch Cree Nation, to develop proposals for chartered surgical facilities.

Premier Jason Kenney said orthopedic surgeons in Alberta are finding it hard to get time in the operating room due to a lack of capacity. 

David Shepherd, NDP Opposition critic for health, said that isn't true. He said the issue is a lack of professionals like nurses and anesthesiologists who play crucial roles in operating rooms. 

"It is not physical infrastructure that is hurting our surgical capacity right now," he said. "It is the damage and the chaos that has been caused by the UCP government in our health system."

Surgical Centres Inc. operates seven clinics in three provinces. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michelle Bellefontaine

Provincial affairs reporter

Michelle Bellefontaine covers the Alberta legislature for CBC News in Edmonton. She has also worked as a reporter in the Maritimes and in northern Canada. You can reach her at Michelle.Bellefontaine@cbc.ca.

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