Queue-jumping inquiry looks at membership fees
The inquiry into queue-jumping in Alberta's health-care system continued Friday, hearing a possible link between a private health clinic and donors to the University of Calgary.
Two Calgary doctors, Mark Swain and Jonathan Love, told the inquiry the Helios Wellness Centre was allowed to open as a reward for donors to the university.
Swain is the head of gastroenterology in Calgary, while Love has the same position for the Foothills Medical Centre.
Swain says he heard a rumour that the Helios Wellness Centre was allowed to open on campus property next to the Foothills Medical Centre as a reward for donors to the university.
Swain says he didn't raise the issue because he didn't want to confront Dr. Ron Bridges, a prominent Calgary physician, who is the senior associate dean at the U of C’s Faculty of Medicine and someone with close ties to people in authority at Alberta Health Services.
Love testified he became quite upset after he had to perform a routine colonoscopy for a patient whose status was changed to urgent.
Love says the patient's doctor was Ron Bridges, and the referral came from the Helios Clinic.
Love said he told a booking clerk to never do that again.
Earlier Friday, Dr. Trevor Theman, registrar with the Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons, said there is nothing wrong with private clinics that charge membership fees for uninsured medical services.
He was asked about referrals from those clinics for services at publically funded facilities and he said there are a number of grey areas within the college’s code of ethics.
However, he also said that he would be offended to think that someone was bumped to the head of the waiting list for an elective procedure for no other reason than a relationship between physicians or physicians and their patient, which he said would be "offensive."
Theman also testified there is sufficient guidance within the Canadian Medical Association standards of practice and the college’s ethics code on the issue. He testified that since 2008, the college has received very few complaints about that and their subsequent investigation led to no disciplinary actions against any physicians.
U of C statement
Late Friday, the University of Calgary issued a written statement.
"The University of Calgary does not comment on speculation or rumour. We will not be commenting on the current Health Services Preferential Access Inquiry until the hearing is complete and all testimony has been heard," the statement reads.
"The University of Calgary does not operate the Helios clinic or the Forzani and MacPhail Colon Cancer Screening Centre. They are both tenants in our teaching, research and wellness building on the Foothills campus. The University of Calgary can confirm that Dr. Ron Bridges is the senior associate dean [for] faculty affairs in the Faculty of Medicine."
Meanwhile, new dates for the inquiry have been added, which include Feb. 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, 28 and Mar. 1.