si-samantha-queue-jumping

Samantha Mallyon, a clerk at colon cancer screening centre, testifies Tuesday. (CBC)

Patients under the care of a private clinic were fast-tracked for colonoscopies, an inquiry into preferential treatment for VIPs in Alberta's health-care system has heard.

Samantha Mallyon, a clerk at the Forzani and MacPhail Colon Cancer Screening Centre, testified that all patients from a private clinic called Helios Health and Wellness were given urgent priority, even if they weren't considered high risk.

"The Helios referrals were physically walked up to me. A staff member from that clinic would hand them to me over the desk," she said on Tuesday.

"They were mostly shown to the triage nurses, but it honestly wouldn't matter what they were triaged as, because they were booked within a week or two."

Mallyon said she was acting on instructions of her superiors. Helios is in the same northwest Calgary building as the screening centre, she added.

Clerk felt guilty

Dave Beninger, another clerk at the same screening centre, testified earlier that he felt guilty booking non-urgent patients. Those from the public system had to wait three to four years, he said.

Beninger testified he saw at least 10 charts where there was preferential care. A common feature with those patients was that they were referred to the centre by Helios Health and Wellness, he says.

"This was a concern and every time it happened, and I thought it was happening, I felt guilty. I didn't really want to book them and I felt like I had to book them. They were nice people but I just felt not good about it," said Beninger.

"We had a clerical meeting. All of the clinic's clerks were there in the meeting room. Someone brought up some sort of inference to private patients or Helios patients or something to that extent and again it was very brief or not formal and [CSSC manager] Darlene [Pontifex] said that doesn't happen anymore and I looked her right in the eye and said: 'Darlene, it's still happening.' I think the subject changed very quickly after that. That's the only time I said something to Darlene."

The Forzani and MacPhail Colon Cancer Screening Centre opened in 2008 as a partnership between the now defunct Calgary Health Region and the University of Calgary's faculty of medicine.

Alberta Premier Alison Redford ordered the inquiry in February after a report by the Alberta Health Quality Council on problems with the province's $16-billion health-care system.