Inquiry finds queue-jumping occurred in Alberta

An inquiry has found that queue-jumping has occurred in Alberta’s health-care system and an environment exists in which it could happen again.

EDMONTON — An inquiry has found that queue-jumping has occurred in Alberta’s health-care system and an environment exists in which it could happen again.

Justice John Vertes says while claims that queue-jumping was widespread and politicians were moving people to the front of the line ended up being untrue, there were instances where people got faster care. He said policies need to be tightened to stop that.

“The claim that it was not uncommon for senior executives to receive requests for expedited care proved to be unfounded,” Vertes wrote in his final report, released Wednesday.

“However … the inquiry did in fact learn of incidents of improper preferential access and also identified several systemic issues that could foster an environment conducive to such improper access.”

Vertes made a total of 12 recommendations to help prevent abuses in the province’s $16-billion health-care system.

He suggested that the definition of queue-jumping and prohibitions against it be strengthened. He said it should be mandatory to report instances when patients are being pushed to the front of the line, and he added that whistleblowers should be protected.

Vertes also said doctors should never give priority under the guise of “professional courtesy” to other medical professionals unless there is an emergency or compelling reason.

The inquiry was called by Premier Alison Redford in response to a report by the Alberta Health Quality Council which found a variety of problems involving patient wait times and administrative confusion.

There was also controversy around comments made by the former head of Alberta Health Services, Stephen Duckett, who claimed preferential access to care was a common practice when he took over the job and that politicians had fixers who could get valued constituents faster treatment.

Vertes, a retired member of the Northwest Territories Supreme Court, heard testimony from Duckett as well as from other prominent Albertans, including Liberal Leader Raj Sherman, who is an emergency room doctor, and Sheila Weatherill, former head of Edmonton’s Capital Health Region.

The inquiry found little evidence of the alleged widespread abuse. It did, however, find problems concerning the Forzani and MacPhail Colon Cancer Screening Centre, a public facility on the University of Calgary campus.

Witnesses testified that the centre gave preferential treatment to patients from the Helios Wellness Centre, a private clinic, also on university grounds, which charges members $10,000 a year for health services. Testimony suggested that between 2008 and 2012, Helios patients were treated within weeks or months — well ahead of the three-year wait other patients endured.

Some believed the rapid treatment was a reward for donors to the university. The inquiry heard that Helios donated $200,000 or more annually to fund medical scholarships and other activities at the University of Calgary.

Staff who worked at the public screening clinic testified that the booking system was in such disarray that referrals from Helios were being slotted in randomly.

Vertes addressed that issue by recommending that a standardized referral and booking system be developed.

In a statement, Health Minister Fred Horne accepted Vertes’s recommendations.

“We will now engage in meaningful discussions with Alberta Health Services and the appropriate colleges on how we will implement these enhancements,” he said, noting the most salacious allegations before Vertes ended up being unfounded.

“He … concluded there was no evidence to prove that any MLA had used influence or other means to enhance his or her own care or that of family or friends, and that MLA advocacy was an appropriate part of MLAs’ duties.

“Public confidence in Alberta’s health system is critical. The checks and balances Justice Vertes has recommended in his report will reassure Albertans that preferential access is not occurring so they can have the utmost confidence in their health system.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Glen Carritt organized a United We Roll Canada convoy around May 2019 that travelled in 2019. An independent review said he breached council code of conduct rules multiple times. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Former Innisfail town councillor breached code of conduct many times, says review

Consultants say 29 of 36 alleged breaches by Glen Carritt had merit

Members of the Red Deer RCMP downtown patrol monitor for drug activity and property crimes. (Advocate file photo).
Two peace officers are training to join Red Deer’s downtown police patrol unit

This “integrated” unit will be the first in Alberta

Students and staff at Gateway Christian School wore pink Wednesday in support of Pink Shirt Day, a worldwide anti-bullying initiative that was started in 2007. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Public Schools)
Students, central Alberta community celebrate Pink Shirt Day

Mayor of Sylvan Lake Sean McIntyre supports anti-bullying cause

City of Red Deer has nearly doubled its active COVID-19 case count since Feb. 10 and has 75.6 per cent of the Central zone’s active cases. (File photo)
Another new high: Red Deer hits 574 active COVID-19 cases

Province reports 13 new COVID-19 deaths, 430 new cases

A homeless shelter was promised Red Deer to help the city deal with downtown issues. The city and province finally released a signed agreement on what the facility will offer, a year after a $7 million commitment was made for the project by the province. (Advocate file photo).
City and province take next step in bringing a 24/7 shelter to Red Deer

It will include a detox and counselling services

Meteor spotted over Edmonton, Alta., on Feb. 22, 2021 by several, who took to social media to share their surveillance camera captures. (@KixxAxe/Twitter)
VIDEO: Fireball meteor streaks across sky, spotted by early-morning risers in Alberta, B.C.

Videos of the quick streak of light flashing across the sky before 6:30 a.m. MST

Calgary Flames goaltender David Rittich (33) makes a save on Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Jimmy Vesey (26) as Flames' Christopher Tanev (8) and Joakim Nordstrom (20) defend during first-period NHL action in Toronto on Wednesday, February 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘Misunderstood’ Nylander ties game late, scores winner as Leafs beat Flames 2-1 in OT

‘Misunderstood’ Nylander ties game late, scores winner as Leafs beat Flames 2-1 in OT

Team Canada skip Kerri Einarson yells to her sweepers at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary, Alta., Friday, Feb. 19, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Young Quebec team in the hunt to join Einarson, Homan in Hearts’ championship round

Young Quebec team in the hunt to join Einarson, Homan in Hearts’ championship round

A crane is used to lift a vehicle following a rollover accident involving golfer Tiger Woods, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles. Woods suffered leg injuries in the one-car accident and was undergoing surgery, authorities and his manager said. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Golf without Woods? Battered leg brings it closer to reality

Golf without Woods? Battered leg brings it closer to reality

Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien looks towards the ice as his team takes on the Ottawa Senators during second period NHL action in Ottawa on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. The Canadiens have fired head coach Julien and associate coach Kirk Muller. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Montreal Canadiens fire head coach Claude Julien, associate coach Kirk Muller

Montreal Canadiens fire head coach Claude Julien, associate coach Kirk Muller

Canada midfielder Sophie Schmidt (13) attempts a shot on goal during the first half of a SheBelieves Cup women's soccer match against Argentina, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Phelan M. Ebenhack
Canadian women exit SheBelieves Cup on losing note, blanked 2-0 by Brazil

Canadian women exit SheBelieves Cup on losing note, blanked 2-0 by Brazil

Supporters pray outside court in Stony Plain, Alta., on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, as a trial date was set for Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church. He is charged with holding Sunday services in violation of Alberta's COVID-19 rules and with breaking conditions of his bail release. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Trial date for jailed Alberta pastor charged with breaking COVID-19 health orders

Trial date for jailed Alberta pastor charged with breaking COVID-19 health orders

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney shakes hands with Jason Nixon, government house leader and environment minister, after Nixon is sworn into office in Edmonton on April 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta eyes recall legislation, focuses on COVID-19 aid in spring sitting

Alberta eyes recall legislation, focuses on COVID-19 aid in spring sitting

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie attends a a news conference in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, February 28, 2019. The CFL faces more challenges in its 2021 return than it did last year when it was forced to cancel its season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
CFL will have to appease more levels of government to get 2021 protocols approved

CFL will have to appease more levels of government to get 2021 protocols approved

Most Read