EDMONTON — Alberta’s health minister is telling a whistle-blowing critic to put up or shut up over damning allegations of corruption by Edmonton health officials.
Gene Zwozdesky told an Alberta radio call-in show Tuesday that if Raj Sherman has proof to back up his accusations of bribery, coercion, coverup and fraud, he should bring it forward immediately.
“Let’s not beat around the bush. You’re going out there, You’re making allegations, (so) put it forward. Let’s have a look at it and we’ll decide where to go,” said Zwozdesky.
“People in the medical community make difficult decisions all the time, and I just cannot believe members of our medical community would be subjects of any alleged bribery.”
Sherman is a former junior health minister who was turfed from the Progressive Conservative caucus before Christmas for publicly criticizing how his own government was handling long waits in emergency wards.
Sherman, who is also an emergency room doctor, now sits as an Independent.
On Monday, he told the legislature that sources had told him that between 2001 and 2006 about 250 patients on a 1,200-patient waiting list for lung surgery died before they could get help due to scarce resources.
He told the house that Edmonton health officials and the College of Physicians and Surgeons covered up the deaths and either punished doctors who threatened to blow the whistle or bribed them with millions of tax dollars.
He also accused Edmonton health officials of fraud. He alleged they kept two sets of financial books to cover up the millions of dollars in payments.
He didn’t offer any proof of his allegations, but said on the radio show that he will back them up next week when he gets to ask another question in the legislature rotation. He also hinted he will broaden the scandal.
“I’m going to ask the premier a question next week, and I will be tabling documents,” he said. “Look forward to that question. There will be a number of emails as well, emails with other elected members’ names.
“I’m absolutely looking forward to being held accountable.”
However, he backtracked Tuesday on the bribery allegations, suggesting payment actually came in the form of pork-barrel health jobs.
He said that while he told the house that dissenting physicians were “paid out in millions to buy their silence,” that didn’t mean bribery.
“I’ve made no comments regarding bribery or bags of money whatsoever,” he said.
“I’ve not said bribery or alleged bribery. There are many who have been paid out for running the (health) regions and they know what’s happened.”
When asked if he was sticking with the allegations that health officials kept two sets of books to hide hush money, he would only say: “Anything I have said is information that was passed on to me.”
Sherman also said that before he tables the incriminating documents he wants Zwozdesky to offer some sort of protection for his sources from government retribution.
Zwozdesky said he’ll consider it.
“It’s something I’ll listen to when he explains it to me.”
Since being turfed from caucus, Sherman has become a self-styled crusader for health reform. Recently, he has been touring the province to listen to people’s health concerns. He is also publicly considering running to be the next leader for the Tories, the Alberta Liberals or the upstart centrist Alberta Party.