A report examining the patient files of a doctor who founded a publicly-funded cancer screening clinic shows "clear evidence of preferential access," Alberta's queue-jumping inquiry was told on Monday.
Patients of Dr. Ron Bridges, founder of the Forzani and MacPhail Colon Cancer Screening Centre (CCSC), were fast-tracked for treatments at the clinic and for procedures at the Foothills Medical Centre, the inquiry heard.
The inquiry resumed on Monday with testimony that Bridges was the only gastroenterologist who directly emailed requests to book patients from private clinics.
But Bridges later testified he had no idea his patients were getting special treatment, as he booked through administrative staff because he didn't understand the booking system. He said he would help anyone who didn't have a family doctor.
"If they phone me I will try and help them access the system. The recent survey of access to gastroenterology results showed almost a third of gastroenterologists in the province here are restricting access on referrals and I'm just trying to help people get into the system."
Report looked at Bridges' patients
According to a written report by Alberta Health Services — submitted by Dr. Mark Swain, head of gastroenterology in Calgary — "there is clear evidence of preferential access" for Bridges' patients.
According to the report, 44 per cent of colonoscopy bookings at CCSC submitted by Bridges did not flow through the regular process. A further 27 per cent were not documented at all, the inquiry heard.
Some of those patients were clients of Helios Wellness Centre — which operates in the same building at the Foothills Medical Centre as CCSC — and Copeman Heathcare Centre, both of which are private facilities offering enhanced medical care.
Earlier Monday, Bridges' lawyer tried unsuccessfully to prevent the report concerning his patient files from being entered as evidence at the provincial inquiry.
But inquiry chairman Justice John Vertes decided the report is relevant and should be admitted as evidence.
Olga Koch, an administrative assistant at CCSC, said she violated clinic policy by booking private patients for Bridges out of respect. She testified that Bridges was "an authority figure."