PC leadership candidate wants queue-jumping inquiry

Tory leadership candidate Alison Redford is calling for a judicial inquiry into allegations by former Alberta Health Services president Stephen Duckett that MLAs helped politically-connected individuals jump the health care queue.

Tory leadership candidate Alison Redford is calling for a judicial inquiry into allegations by former Alberta Health Services president Stephen Duckett that politically-connected individuals jumped the health care queue with the help of MLAs.

Redford said the allegations raised by Duckett in a speech to health professionals on May 5 are undermining confidence in Alberta's health care system. She wants a judge to lead a public inquiry where witnesses are compelled to give evidence.

"It's about what has happened in the system to ensure that we get to the bottom of this and if there has been any of this, that we all are completely open about it," she said.

"I know that it's not something that Albertans are going to accept and nor should they. That's why we need to have this inquiry."

Former Justice Minister Alison Redford is running to replace Premier Ed Stelmach as leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party. CBC
CBC News first reported Monday that Duckett claimed in that speech to health professionals in Toronto that he put an end to "go-to guys" who would adjust waiting lists at the request of MLAs.

A memo Duckett sent to AHS vice-presidents in 2009 that condemned the practice was released Monday. Independent MLA and emergency room physician Raj Sherman said he personally received requests from hospital executives for some patients to get preferential treatment.

Premier Ed Stelmach denied any queue-jumping ever took place and said Duckett's 2009 memo was never sent to him.

Former AHS president and CEO Stephen Duckett made his controversial remarks in a speech on May 5 in Toronto. (CBC)
"I haven't seen the document and I'm not aware of any MLAs that have received any preferential treatment — on both sides of the house," Stelmach said.

"He might even be talking about opposition members but as I said before it was something that he heard from someone else."

Stelmach also dismissed Redford's calls for a public inquiry and said she may be trying to differentiate herself from other candidates in the leadership race.

Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky said he had never heard of anyone jumping the queue. He told CBC News that he hadn't seen Duckett's memo until Tuesday morning.

NDP sets up tip hotline

Liberal leader David Swann applauded Redford for breaking with her party, saying that it is the right thing to do.

"I think anyone who's serious about leading this province into a better future and fixing the health care system must call for a public inquiry so we can have information, truth, accountability," he said.

Swann, Alberta Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith and NDP leader Brian Mason have also called for a public inquiry into Duckett's allegations.

The Alberta NDP announced Tuesday the party had created a hotline for people to leave anonymous tips about any MLA who may have helped someone jump the health care queue.

Jack Ady, former chairman of the Chinook Health Region in southern Alberta, acknowledged people would approach him for help. But Ady says all he could do was tell them to talk to their doctor.

"To my knowledge, there was no number, no magic number that you could phone because there was some organized structured thing that could make it happen for you," he said.

Earlier this year, the Stelmach Tories rebuffed repeated opposition party demands to hold a public inquiry into allegations physicians were intimidated for speaking out against the government over compromised patient care.