EDMONTON — The ongoing saga of a maverick Alberta politician estranged from his government over its health care policies took a strangely personal twist Friday.
Raj Sherman, a doctor and Edmonton member of the legislature, has been making headlines for more than a week after he took on his own party for what he said were inadequacies in dealing with long emergency room wait times.
The Tory caucus suspended him after he followed that up by suggesting former health minister Ron Liepert had been rude to front-line health staff.
Now Sherman is accusing some of his former colleagues of trying to discredit him by questioning his mental stability.
Sherman told a radio talk show he was called Thursday by the head psychologist at the College of Physicians and Surgeons. He said he was told a mental health assessment had been “ordered” for him.
“I was told that the premier is going after my medical licence — that’s exactly what the premier said on the day they decided to throw me out,” said Sherman.
“That’s exactly what Yvonne Fritz, who is the minister of children and youth services, said. She said, ’Raj, you need to be taken to emergency and you need to see a psychiatrist and be locked up.”’
“That’s simply not true,” said Stelmach in denying all Sherman’s allegations.
“I don’t have the authority. There’s a professional organization, whether it’s a physician’s licence, a dentist’s licence, lawyers — they all have professional organizations, bodies that licence that. I can’t even take someone’s driver’s licence away.”
However, Patrick White, the president of the Alberta Medical Association, confirmed he had received a phone call from Tory member Fred Horne, “who expressed concern about Dr. Sherman’s well-being.”
“Based on my conversation with Mr. Horne, I telephoned three emergency physicians whom I know to be not only colleagues but also friends of Dr. Sherman, and I asked them if they could look out for him,” White said.
“In short, yesterday’s events were driven by friendship; by friends doing what they thought was best for a friend.”
Sherman, who still covers emergency rooms shifts on weekends, has said that his criticisms of ER wait times were prompted in part by his own father’s ongoing ill health.
He has said his father has almost died while waiting for treatment in emergency rooms.
Stelmach said members of the Conservative caucus have tried to show compassion toward Sherman.
“I know that all members have reached out to him and have offered support and we’ve all chatted with him and spent some time with him,” said the premier.
White, meanwhile, also noted that Sherman’s advocacy for patients has resonated with Albertans.
“Dr. Sherman has reflected the ethos of the medical profession but in a forum, i.e. the Alberta legislature, that few physicians have ever had.”
The Alberta NDP has said it will raise Sherman’s allegations of a “whisper campaign” in the legislature Monday as a point of privilege.