Members of the Alberta legislature held an emergency debate on health care Monday following allegations doctors have been intimidated and forced out of their jobs for speaking out.
The debate — and the question period that preceded it — was the first time opposition parties were able to question the government since all four leaders and Independent MLA Raj Sherman held a joint news conference Friday to demand the province hold an independent public inquiry into the doctors' allegations.
"Absolute confidence, my ass," Liberal leader David Swann shouted in response to one of Premier Ed Stelmach's answers in the legislature.
Stelmach had just stated that any allegations by physicians could be brought to the Health Quality Council with "absolute confidence."
Swann and the opposition leaders argue the Health Quality Council probe announced last week by Stelmach lacks independence and transparency.
Last week, a CBC News investigation revealed a lawsuit in which thoracic surgeon Dr. Ciaran McNamee claimed he was forced out of his practice by Capital Health and two senior managers after he complained publicly to the governing Conservative caucus, the health minister and senior bureaucrats about surgery wait times and inadequate resources for his patients.
A second doctor has since come forward to make similar allegations.
Opposition party members suggested since Zwozdesky was the associate minister of health during 1999 — the time period in which McNamee alleged he was pushed out — having the Health Quality Council report to him on these matters is a conflict of interest.
Zwozdesky and Sherman also had a testy exchange during question period.
"Stop this game-playing," the health minister demanded of Sherman.
"You're making a bunch of wild accusations and you're bringing forward allegations. Honourable member, we're giving you a chance here. You've got the stage. You've got the platform. Do something with it that's evidentiary."
Zwozdesky challenged Sherman to bring any allegations of fraud to the police.
On Sunday, Stelmach issued a statement in which he dismissed the opposition leaders' joint news conference as "a preposterous piece of political theatre."