Testimony from the doctor accused of booking his own patients ahead of others on long waiting lists will continue at Alberta's health care queue-jumping inquiry next Monday.
Dr. Ron Bridges, who founded the publicly-funded colon cancer screening facility at the centre of queue-jumping allegations, began his testimony on Wednesday.
The inquiry has heard from witnesses who say the Forzani and MacPhail Colon Cancer Screening Centre allowed patients from Helios Wellness Centre, a private clinic in the same building at the Foothills Medical Centre, to skip the queue for cancer screenings.
Gastroenterologist Dr. Jon Love also testified that Dr. Doug Caine of the Helios clinic told him the facility was set up to reward people who donated to the University of Calgary. Caine has denied saying this.
Dr. Chen Fong, a University of Calgary radiology professor and Helios founder, rejected the suggestion that Helios — which makes revenues of up to $3.5 million — was created to reward U of C medical school donors.
He testified that the clinic is a non-profit organization set up in 2007 to fund scholarships for university medical students.
For $10,000 a year, Helios patients get a range of services, including yoga, diet tips and exercise advice, Fong said. Any profits go to the university.
Bridges told the inquiry Wednesday he knows Fong well and worked with him five years ago on the University of Calgary's Reach! campaign, which raised $312 million from 700 donors for projects that included the CCSC.
The inquiry was told that from 2008 to early 2010, doctors who worked at the public screening centre, including Bridges, were allowed to bring in patients from their own practices for screening while the CCSC worked to create one common patient queue for everyone.
Darlene Pontifex, CCSC manager, testified Wednesday that it was "probably not fair" for Bridges to book his patients in that manner.
Clerks said prior to 2010 the Helios patients were also fast-tracked by a special folder.
After 2010, clerks said the special file was shut down, but Bridges continued to book Helios patients based on referrals sent to him directly by email from Helios.
Testimony paints different pictures
But Caine and Leah Tschritter-Pawluk — the day-to-day leaders at Helios — testified Tuesday that in 2010 they did begin directly emailing Bridges to get their patients seen at the public screening centre because they considered the centre's database a mess and patient files were getting lost.
Caine said at no time did they expect Helios patients to be pushed to the head of the line.
On Wednesday, inquiry lawyer Ryan Penner showed Pontifex two emails from Bridges to Pontifex and her assistant that said Helios patients were to be booked directly.
Pontifex testified she doesn't remember those emails.
"I receive a lot of emails. I don't necessarily read them."
She also testified that Bridges was the one who "implied" that the separate file of fast-tracked Helios patients be set up prior to 2010. Bridges did not have any formal title at the screening centre, but he had informal authority, Pontifex said.
"He did have a management role with us. He was our adviser."
Dr. Valerie Boswell, a general practitioner at the screening centre, has testified she warned Pontifex in person twice that she had concerns about Bridges fast-tracking patients. A clerk said he personally warned Pontifex of the same thing in 2011.
Both said Pontifex either ignored them or brushed off their concerns. Pontifex testified she doesn't recall those conversations.
Bridges, a University of Calgary associate dean in the medical faculty, is slated to return to the witness box Monday to answer questions relating to the allegations of queue-jumping.