CALGARY -- The Alberta government will spend $500 million in an effort to improve surgical wait times in the province over the next three years.

A significant portion — $100 million — of that will be used to renovate and upgrade surgical infrastructure and equipment across Alberta.

The provincial government will expand its use of private facilities to provide up to 80,000 more surgeries within acceptable wait times by 2023. The target time will be four months for about 70 per cent of surgeries, the government says.

"Albertans deserve a world-class health system that delivers the right care, in the right setting, at the right time," said Premier Jason Kenney.

Kenney and Health Minister Tyler Shandro reaffirmed the commitment in an announcement in Edmonton on Wednesday. Most of the details of the plan were previously released by the government in December 2019, though the cost of the program wasn’t known until the provincial budget was released last week.

According to the premier, the average wait time for medically-necessary surgeries was 28 weeks in Alberta and the Canadian average was 20.9 weeks.

About 15 per cent of surgeries in Alberta are performed by private contractors, but the government’s intention is to nearly double that over the next three years. There are about 293,000 total surgeries performed in Alberta every year.

Health care advocacy group Friends of Medicare said the provincial budget and the plan to privatize care lacks transparency and has the possibility to "erode our public health care."

"Ultimately, the government’s short-sighted goal of pursuing short-term savings through cuts and privatization will not only have major impacts on Albertans in the coming year, they will have extensive down-stream effects on our public health care system for years to come,” said the group in a statement.

Out of the $100 million funding commitment, 12 operating rooms at the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary will be updated. Some low-risk surgeries will also be moved from the Foothills to Canmore or High River. Lethbridge’s Chinook Regional Hospital and the Medicine Hat Regional Hospital will also be renovated, the government said.

"This $100 million for capital projects will have a cascading effect, improving access to surgeries in big city hospitals, but also in rural communities across the province, so people can get care closer to home," said Shandro.