A doctor who works at a private clinic that’s been linked to queue-jumping denied telling a colleague the facility was set up as a way to thank wealthy donors to the University of Calgary medicine faculty.
After a one month break, the provincial inquiry examining queue-jumping in Alberta's publicly-funded health-care system resumed in Calgary Tuesday morning.
Several members of the Helios Wellness Centre — a private health-care facility — have been called to testify at the inquiry, including Dr. Douglas Caine, a physician at the clinic.
Caine was asked if he recalls telling gastroenterologist Dr. Jonathan Love during a tour of the facility that it exists as a way to reward people for big donations to the university.
"I don't recall that," he said.
Caine said Helios is a non-profit organization and that any profits are donated to publicly-funded institutions, including the university’s Faculty of Medicine.
Caine founded Helios along with radiologist Dr. Chen Fong, who took the stand after him on Tuesday.
Fong rejected the suggestion that Helios was created to reward U of C medical school donors.
Helios makes revenues of between $3 to 3.5 million but the clinic diverts that profit to U of C fellowships and other fundraisers, he said.
Fong added the doctors at Helios are diligent patient advocates but they did not arrange queue-jumping at the Forzani and MacPhail Colon Cancer Screening Centre (CCSC), as has been alleged.
According to prior testimony at the inquiry, some patients who used the clinic were able to jump to the front of the line when they were referred to CCSC.
While ordinary patients had to wait up to three years for screening, the inquiry heard testimony that the favoured patients were referred, examined and treated within months.
Helios clinic operator Leah Tschritter-Pawluck testified Tuesday that the manager at the colon cancer screening centre is a patient at the private clinic.
She said there are 670 patients at Helios, and they pay anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 for access to executive-type health services.
Tschritter-Pawluck said she was aware of an up to eight-month backlog at the screening centre, but referrals emailed to a doctor there were not intended to get private patients in faster.
Staff at the centre said the favoured patients were booked for a colonoscopy much sooner than others who were already on the waiting list.