Health-care queue jumping probe starts

EDMONTON — A health law expert has told an Alberta inquiry that federal and provincial health-care legislation contains gaps that can allow people to skip ahead in the line for medical services.

EDMONTON — A health law expert has told an Alberta inquiry that federal and provincial health-care legislation contains gaps that can allow people to skip ahead in the line for medical services.

William Lahey, a professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, was the first witness to testify at the inquiry Monday into preferential health treatment in the province.

He said it’s a concern that some people may have to wait a few months for diagnostic tests, while others can pay to have them done at a private clinic in a day.

Faster results mean patients can get onto waiting lists for surgeries sooner, he said.

Lahey told reporters the inquiry is the first of its kind in the country to delve into the issue of queue jumping in the health-care system. He expects many Canadians will be paying attention.

“There is a perception, perhaps, that there is preferential access happening, but no one has really studied or looked into it in a systematic way.”

The issue of queue jumping came into focus in Alberta when Stephen Duckett, former head of Alberta Health Services — which oversees the day-to-day operations of all health delivery in the province — gave a speech in Toronto last year.

He said that when he took over as head of Alberta Health Services in 2009, he had to put a stop to politicians having go-to people in health regions who could facilitate faster care for friends, family and supporters.

The NDP then asked police to look into the matter. The RCMP investigated, but said it found only anecdotes, stories and rumours of queue-jumping.

Duckett is to testify Tuesday.

Premier Alison Redford ordered the inquiry in February after the Alberta Health Quality Council released a scathing report of abuse and mismanagement in the system.

The council heard from many doctors who said that when they complained about poor patient care, they were bullied or even fired.

Redford initially said the inquiry would look into the bullying allegations, but later ordered the inquiry to focus on queue jumping — although she clarified it can follow the evidence where it goes.

John Vertes, a retired senior judge on the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories, is heading the inquiry. He is to hear from 10 witnesses during its first week in Edmonton. It is scheduled to wrap up Jan. 18 in Calgary.

Vertes pointed out that Alberta’s Health Care Protection Act has a queue-jumping provision that prohibits buying or selling spots on waiting lists.

But he asked Lahey whether there is anything in provincial or federal laws that spells out how waiting lists are structured and regulated.

Lahey said there’s not. And there’s also no legal definition of what services are considered “medically necessary” or “medically required” to be publicly funded.

He said it can come down to money, and what each province is willing to pay for.

John Rossall, a lawyer for the Alberta Medical Association, asked Lahey whether politicians and doctors often disagree on what tests and services are necessary.

“There can be that gap, yes,” said Lahey. “There can be differences between what individual physicians think need to be done, relative to a particular patient, and what the health-care system has decided.

“That happens. It happens in all health-care system.”

Rossall further questioned Lahey about how private diagnostic tests can give patients a jump start on getting surgery.

“Would you agree that really amounts to systemic queue jumping?” he asked.

Vertes ruled Lahey had been called as an educational witness and could not give his opinion.

Just Posted

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives at the 2021 budget in Edmonton on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta launches COVID vaccine lottery with million-dollar prizes to encourage uptake

The premier says the lottery will offer three prizes worth $1 million a piece, as well as other prizes

Dharmesh Goradia, and his daughter Vidhi and wife Chaitali, at the 2017 festival for the Godess Durga, held at the Golden Circle. (Photo contributed)
Draft curriculum misses the mark for central Alberta Hindu society

Meeting scheduled with Alberta Education officials

Air Canada planes sit on the tarmac at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. Air Canada says it will recall more than 2,600 employees who were furloughed during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Alberta’s tourism sector hurt by COVID-19 pandemic: ATB Financial

Between border closures, public health measures and hesitancy to travel, Alberta’s tourism… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

A man wears a face mask as he walks by a sign for a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, May 16, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Canada paid a premium to get doses from Pfizer earlier than planned

OTTAWA — Canada paid a premium to get more than 250,000 doses… Continue reading

The Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., is shown in this 1930 handout photo. HO — Deschatelets-NDC Archives
Calls grow for Ottawa to review settlement decisions for residential school survivors

Lawyer Teri Lynn Bougie still cries when she talks about the final… Continue reading

Syringes are readied at a COVID-19 mobile vaccination clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, Friday, April 30, 2021 in Montreal. Most of the federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines allow for Canada to donate some of its doses to other countries or international aid organizations and in at least three cases, for the doses to be resold.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada’s vaccine contracts allow for doses to be donated, in some cases resold

OTTAWA — Most of the federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines allow for… Continue reading

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, responds to the report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in Vancouver, on Monday June 3, 2019. As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk'emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Two sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

VANCOUVER — As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after… Continue reading

A woman sits and weeps at the scene of Sunday's hate-motivated vehicle attack in London, Ont. on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. Four members of a family in London, Ont., are set to be buried today. The public has been invited to help celebrate the lives of Talat Afzaal, 74, her son Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, and their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Salman.THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Geoff Robins
Funeral to be held today for London family killed in attack

LONDON, Ont. — Four members of a Muslim family killed in what… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden listen to United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson deliver opening remarks at a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, United Kingdom Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau to discuss foreign policy with G7 leaders at second day of summit meeting

CARBIS BAY, CORNWALL, ENGLAND — Foreign policy is on the agenda for… Continue reading

Most Read