Alberta Medical Association lauds Tory for speaking about health-care

EDMONTON — The firestorm sparked when a Tory member of the Alberta legislature spoke out about problems in health care got hotter Friday after a meeting of health leaders to introduce a new set of protocols for improving ER wait times.

EDMONTON — The firestorm sparked when a Tory member of the Alberta legislature spoke out about problems in health care got hotter Friday after a meeting of health leaders to introduce a new set of protocols for improving ER wait times.

On Thursday, Raj Sherman apologized to Premier Ed Stelmach for sending out an e-mail saying the premier had broken a promise to fix long hospital emergency room delays.

But on Friday, Sherman continued with his criticisms, singling out former health minister Ron Liepert as having been “rude and offensive to front-line staff.”

“The previous minister, to be honest, was quite rude and offensive to all front-line staff — doctors, nurses and patients,” Sherman told CTV News.

“I allowed that to happen. I didn’t speak up, so I take responsibility for that.”

Sherman said he will stay on with the Tories but added he told Stelmach he will continue to be critical of the health care situation in Alberta.

“I said, ’Premier, you gotta decide what to do with me. You wanna fire me or you want me to quit? Because the status quo will no longer happen,’ ” said Sherman.

Stelmach has made no effort to reprimand Sherman but has called for peace between caucus members.

“The caucus showed great compassion, showed great respect … and I expect the same respect and compassion paid by Dr. Sherman to all of his caucus members,” said the premier.

“We have to all work together.”

Stelmach said he is confident in his government’s relationship with front-line health care staff.

Liepert, who is currently energy minister, refused to comment on the accusations.

Things got hotter still when Alberta Health Services’ CEO Dr. Stephen Duckett refused to speak to reporters after Friday’s meeting.

He waved them off with repeated comments that he was busy “eating a cookie.”

“I was frankly shocked to see this kind of behaviour coming from a high-ranking official,” said Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann. “I absolutely condemn his disrespectful treatment of the media and by extension the people of Alberta. This crisis is far too important to deflect with, of all things, a cookie.”

The lobby group Friends of Medicare also reacted, saying Duckett gets paid a lot of money to be the man who is supposed to fix health problems, and the media has the right to question him on it.

“We’ve been dying to know what’s going on between Alberta Health Services and Alberta Health,” said David Eggen of Friends of Medicare.

“This sort of animosity and lack of transparency is leading down a very bad road.”

Even Heath Minister Gene Zwozdesky criticized Duckett’s comments as “inappropriate, given the seriousness of the situation we’re dealing with.”

Meanwhile, the Alberta Medical Association said it was encouraged that Sherman wasn’t disciplined for speaking out about problems in health care.

Dr. Patrick White, president of the AMA, said he is pleased that Sherman, who is also a physician, will remain in government.

In a letter to association members, White also praised Sherman, calling him a tremendous advocate for patients.

White said patients and medical professionals throughout the province share Sherman’s frustrations and concerns about Alberta’s health-care system.

As for the meeting itself, the group of health care professionals came up with some guidelines for freeing up valuable space in emergency rooms by moving patients who don’t need to be in emergency beds to other wards and hospitals that have room.

“There are multiple triggers based across the whole system, trying to get patients into the right place,” said Dr. Chris Eagle of Alberta Health Services.