Surgeons at Edmonton’s Royal Alexandra Hospital have been told to cancel roughly 15 per cent of its elective surgeries by Alberta Health Services, but Alberta’s health minister says it’s more of a slowdown to cut down on overtime costs.

While being grilled by opposition parties about the move during question period, Health Minister Ron Liepert said workload at the hospital rose during the first quarter this year.

And since the workload racked up a “significant” amount of overtime costs, Alberta Health Services has told surgeons at the hospital to maintain the number of surgeries as it was during the end of 2008.

“Why have you again failed Albertans, leaving them waiting in pain and darkness because you’ve cancelled their surgeries?” NDP Leader Brian Mason asked Liepert.

“Nobody has cancelled anybody’s surgeries and it has been very clear, Mr. Speaker, that urgent care and urgent surgeries will be proceeding as they always have,” Liepert replied.

David Eggen, an executive director with Friends of Medicare, said the government’s constrained budget for Alberta Health Service has forced hospitals to scramble.

“It’s a contracting budget, so now hospitals are left scrambling to make ends meet,” said Eggen. “So, here they are cancelling surgeries and I don’t think anyone would find that acceptable.”

Since the government is looking to delist services, along with trying to force criminals to pay for their victims’ health bills with Bill 48, the government has taken on an aggressive agenda to privatize health care, said Eggen.

Alberta Health Services says knee, hip and cataract operations will be postponed, while urgent surgeries will go ahead.

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