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Updated: 26th December 2018 06:04

Duckett alerted health VPs about queue-jumping: memo

Alberta Health Services vice-presidents received a memo in 2009 from then-president Stephen Duckett which called into question the apparently prevalent practice of allowing 'prominent' individuals to jump the health-care queue.

Alberta Health Services vice-presidents were sent a memo in 2009 from then-president Stephen Duckett which called into question the apparently prevalent practice of allowing "prominent" individuals to jump the health-care queue.

The vice-presidents were ordered to forward any future requests to Duckett. "Other representatives, leaders, or staff of the organization are not authorized to receive or address such requests," a copy of the memo says.

Duckett last month told an audience of medical professionals in Toronto that CEOs of the now-disbanded regional health boards had designated "go-to guys" who would adjust waiting lists at the request of MLAs.

The memo, released Monday night by Alberta Health Services, was forwarded to senior vice-presidents and presidents in charge of all the province's hospitals, the zone vice-presidents, the cancer corridor vice-president and a chief of staff for the AHS board.

Read the 2009 memo sent by Stephen Duckett

An attached policy document, prepared by senior physician executive D.W. Megran, defines "prominent individuals" as politicians and other government officials, philanthropists who have donated to AHS or its foundations, AHS board directors and executives as well as those who are "prominent in local or provincial society or business."

Former AHS president and CEO Stephen Duckett made his controversial remarks in a speech on May 5th in Toronto. (CBC)"Providing preferential and/or expedited care based on societal status or personal relationship to health care executive or officials" creates "a conflict-of-interest for the organization and an ethical dilemma for the health-care executive or official receiving a request to do so," the memo states.

This type of treatment "represents 'queue-jumping,' a practice that a public health-care organization cannot defend or support." 

The memo says the practice creates delays for those who need care and "implies that not all individuals in society are considered 'equal' or are entitled to equal treatment."

Opposition calls for public inquiry

Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason said the memo confirms the allegations Duckett made last month.

"Dr. Duckett saw a widespread practice of queue-jumping for privileged individuals including Conservative MLAs and he took action to stop it," Mason said.

Mason, Alberta Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith and Liberal leader David Swann all called for a public inquiry Monday after Duckett's allegations came to light.

Earlier this year, the Stelmach Tories rebuffed repeated opposition party demands to hold a public inquiry into allegations physicians were intimidated for speaking out against the government over compromised patient care.

Mason says Duckett's allegations provide more evidence of political interference in the health system.

Duckett, a former senior health executive from Australia, was the president and CEO of Alberta Health Services for nearly two years.

He was fired last fall after he refused to talk to reporters following a meeting about backlogs in the province's emergency rooms. Duckett said he was too busy eating a cookie.

Duckett now teaches at the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta.




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