Calgary colon clinic head blames staff for queue-jumping

The head of Calgary's flagship colon-cancer screening centre is blaming his frontline staff for allowing favoured patients to be pushed up two years in the queue.

Alberta's deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk also questioned about an incident in 2009

The head of a Calgary's colon-cancer screening centre puts the blame on his frontline staff. 2:39

The head of Calgary's flagship colon-cancer screening centre is blaming his frontline staff for allowing favoured patients to be pushed up two years in the queue.

Dr. Alaa Rostom told Alberta's queue-jumping inquiry the booking clerks don't have that authority and shouldn't have been doing it.

The clerks at the Forzani and MacPhail Centre have already testified they were directed by doctors, nurses and supervisors to move patients up in line in 2010 and 2011.

Dr. Rostom told the inquiry that was not the case.

"Absolutely not. There was no direction given on that."

While ordinary patients had to wait three years to be seen, the favoured patients were referred, examined and treated within months.

Many of those patients came from the exclusive Helios Wellness Centre, a private centre offering care to a select clientele.

The booking clerks also testified that many of the favoured patients were to be seen only by Rostom or by two other doctors — but Rostom says he doesn't know why that would have been done.

Dr. Alaa Rostom said frontline staff are to blame for allowing favoured patients to jump the queue at Calgary's flagship colon-cancer screening centre. (Bryan Labby/CBC)

Deputy premier testifies

Alberta's deputy premier denied helping a young girl gain quicker access to the provincial health-care system by personally phoning an emergency room physician that he knew.

Thomas Lukaszuk was asked about driving a young girl to an emergency room in Edmonton in 2009 during Alberta's Preferential Access Inquiry in Calgary Wednesday.

A woman, who was a temporary foreign worker with an expired work permit, had brought her injured daughter into Lukaszuk's constituency office in Edmonton.

She was concerned she would be forcefully deported if she took her daughter to the hospital.

Lukaszuk agreed to help and called his then Tory caucus colleague Raj Sherman, an emergency room physician who is now the leader of the Alberta Liberal Party.

Lukaszuk says Sherman offered to help, so he personally drove the girl to the emergency room at Edmonton's Royal Alexandra Hospital. Sherman met them there and took the girl into the ER.

Thomas Lukaszuk, Alberta's deputy premier, testified about helping a temporary foreign worker's daughter in 2009 at the health care queue-jumping inquiry Wednesday. (Bryan Labby/CBC)

Lukaszuk said he was not trying to obtain faster access to the ER for the girl, and testified he had nothing to gain because she was not related and her family members were not eligible to vote.

"This person was not a voter ... or a constituent, it was a random person not affiliated in any way to me or my office who just presented herself in my office with this unusual circumstance," he said.

"Do you mean to suggest, Mr. Lukaszuk, that you might have done so for a voter or a family member?" asked inquiry lawyer Michele Hollins.

"I'm not suggesting that at all," Lukaszuk replied.

Later, Lukaszuk told reporters he would not comment on evidence of queue-jumping that was heard on Tuesday. The inquiry heard patients under the care of a private clinic were fast-tracked for colonoscopies.

He says he'll let the inquiry commissioner determine if anything inappropriate occurred in Alberta's health-care system.

With files from The Canadian Press