EDMONTON - Alberta's health agency says wait times have improved for hip, knee and cataract surgeries this fiscal year compared to the last.

However, Alberta Health Services says in its second-quarter performance report that wait times in emergency departments have not changed since last year and that 53 per cent of people wait longer than eight hours to be admitted into hospital.

As for long-term care, the agency says there was an 18-per-cent reduction in the number of people waiting in hospital beds for continuing care.

It also says the percentage of people placed into continuing care within 30 days of being assessed increased from 63 per cent to 69 per cent.

Cancer wait times have improved — AHS says the time from referral to first consultation with a radiation oncologist is 4.9 weeks, down from six weeks one year ago, an improvement of 18.3 per cent.

The agency also said it has an operating deficit of $3 million for the second quarter of 2012-13.

"In areas where targets are not yet reached, AHS continues to take action, such as reducing back logs on surgical and referral wait lists, opening inpatient beds in spring 2013 at the South Health Campus in Calgary and adding more continuing care beds across the province," the agency said in a new release Thursday.

Wildrose health critic Heather Forsyth said the report shows that Alberta continues to lag far behind on already low wait time standards.

“Having over 55 per cent of Albertans not being admitted in our emergency departments within an eight-hour limit is unacceptable and it’s time that we had some real action," Forsyth said in a news release.

"We’re thankful our health-care professionals are the glue that holds our health care system together. Albertans deserve better.”

Forsyth pointed out that people waiting in acute beds for continuing care placement has also gone up this quarter. She said last quarter there were 459 patients waiting to be placed into care, while this quarter it’s up to 557, the highest it’s been in a year.

She also said AHS is still way behind its key wait time targets for hip surgeries. The agency's own target is 22 weeks, but the actual wait is 35 weeks, and for knee surgeries, the target is 28 weeks, but in reality, people are waiting 43 weeks.

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    Our system is not perfect, but US is 10 times worst then ours... (for the not wealthy) They can do what they want, but if they want to remortgage their house because they have cancer and need treatments, it's their choice. In Canada, you don't have to! You might wait a little and that's frustrating, but if your case is serious you will go in front of the line. simple. Proud to be Canadian and not American ! I broke bones skiing, biking in Canada, except for the ambulance, it was completely free. I don't want to imagine how much it is in the US. - <a href="https://www.facebook.com/HuffPostCanada/posts/358991540845074?comment_id=2503306&offset=50&total_comments=73" target="_hplink"> Guillame Martin-Dore</a>

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    I had a life threatening brain tumor. The docs here would have sent me to Johns Hopkins if they couldn't do the surgery safely here. OHIP would have paid my fees and travel costs. My surgery was cancelled once because there was a multi-vehicle pile up and other people needed the spots more than I did. Otherwise, care was excellent and timely! <a href="https://www.facebook.com/HuffPostCanada/posts/358991540845074?comment_id=2503342&offset=0&total_comments=73" target="_hplink">- Laura Cooper Lyons</a>

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    My husband and I just spent 3 months living in Ottawa because our 13 year old son was diagnosed with Cancer in April and he was so very well taken care of! Everyone was amazing and we didn't wait for anything! Even before he was diagnosed and we didn't know what was wrong, the wait times for testing to figure out what the heck was going on was good, and we live in Northern Ontario! We still own our home and are not in debt to pay for treatment! Because we live in beautiful Canada :) My son is alive because we live where we do and we are forever grateful! - <a href="https://www.facebook.com/HuffPostCanada/posts/358991540845074?comment_id=2503362&offset=0&total_comments=73" target="_hplink">Jennifer Guerard</a>

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    They should know that everyone here gets health care. That no one is declaring bankruptcy or losing their home because of medical debts. No one is going without insurance because of pre-existing medical conditions or because they can't afford it. That it may not be fancy, but we get what we need and our government spends less per capita than theirs does. I won't say that it's a perfect system, but I'm terribly grateful that it's there for me and my family. - <a href="https://www.facebook.com/HuffPostCanada/posts/358991540845074?comment_id=2503367&offset=0&total_comments=73" target="_hplink">Amanda Young Brinda</a>

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    They need to know that I have my life back due to a new hip and knee....went from being crippled to leaving city life and buying a farm, working with my 6 horses, playing with 4 boisterous dogs. If I lived in the States, as a contract worker so no insurance plan, I would be immobile and probably suicidal, unable to afford what my Canadian Medicare has provided for me. What I received is truly priceless. - <a href="https://www.facebook.com/HuffPostCanada/posts/358991540845074?comment_id=2503414&offset=0&total_comments=73" target="_hplink">Val Tannage </a>

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    They need to know you can go to sleep every night and if illness strikes they can access health care without fear of losing their home, their life savings or incurring huge debt. They should know that they are being cared for by a system that has a far lower infant mortality rate and longer life expectancy. They Should know that their coverage won't be cancelled because of previous illness. - <a href="https://www.facebook.com/HuffPostCanada/posts/358991540845074?comment_id=2503605&offset=0&total_comments=73" target="_hplink">Martin Palmer</a>