12/13/2012 03:42 EST | Updated 02/12/2013 05:12 EST

Emergency Wait Times In Alberta Still High But Alberta Health Says Surgery Times Are Down

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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