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Updated: 14th November 2019 05:27 Calgary

No hospital wait for 'buddies' of Alta. politicians: doctor

An emergency room doctor says "buddies" of Alberta politicians received preferential medical treatment while other patients were left waiting.

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If a well-known person showed up in an emergency room, a hospital executive would request they were 'looked after,' said Alberta MLA Dr. Raj Sherman. ((CBC))

"Buddies" of Alberta politicians received preferential medical treatment while other patients were left waiting, an emergency room doctor says.

Dr. Raj Sherman said Tuesday he personally experienced requests from hospital executives for certain patients to get preferential treatment.

"It was a practice that was common — that we regularly saw on the front lines — where certain members of society got in the back door while others had to wait," he said. "Certain people got to jump the queue regularly."

Sherman is a former Alberta Progressive Conservative MLA who is now an independent MLA.

CBC News reported Monday that former Alberta Health Services president Stephen Duckett claimed in a recent speech he had put an end to "go-to guys" who would adjust waiting lists at the request of MLAs.

On Monday night, Alberta Health Services (AHS) released a 2009 memo to health officials from Duckett that condemned the practice.

'Unfair' to waiting patients

Sherman said while he can't talk about specific cases, no one in critical condition was ever denied treatment because a queue jumper was getting medical help.

A government-relations person used to report directly to the head of Capital Health, the now defunct Edmonton-area health region, Sherman said.

"The good thing about that is if constituents had difficulty accessing the system, they would get looked after. But the unfair thing about that was all the MLAs' buddies, that's how they got in."

The practice became "much more difficult" once regional health authorities were dissolved to create the Alberta Health Service's superboard, he said.

David Eggen, who speaks for the lobby group Friends of Medicare, called the allegations very serious. He is calling on police and federal health officials to investigate what he says were illegal acts "in the eyes of most Albertans, especially someone who was behind that other person in the queue. I mean it's simply appalling."

Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason, Alberta Wildrose Alliance Leader Danielle Smith and Liberal Leader David Swann are all calling for a public inquiry on the issue.

Memo details queue jumping

The 2009 memo from Duckett 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.

An attached policy document prepared by senior physician executive D.W. Megran defines "prominent individuals" as politicians and other government officials and 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."

"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."

Alberta Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky hasn't commented on the issue since the release of the memo, but said earlier Monday he hadn't see any "proof to any of these kinds of allegations."

Anyone with proof should take it to the Health Quality Council of Alberta, which studies health care in the province.

Duckett, a former senior health executive from Australia, was the president and CEO of Alberta Health Services for nearly two years before he was fired. He now teaches at the school of public health at the University of Alberta.

Articled from the CBC RSS Syndication CBC.ca - RSS Feeds Copyright is that of their respective owners (CBC) Calgary News Releases

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