Alberta's premier is vowing to change legislation so he learns sooner about incidents such as the case of medical equipment in a Lloydminster clinic that may have been improperly sterilized.
Ed Stelmach is upset that it took two years for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta to tell Alberta's health minister about the investigation in Lloydminster.
"I'm not satisfied. Two years is a long time," said Stelmach.
The college begananinvestigation intotwo obstetricians at the Lloyd Women's Clinic in the small Saskatchewan border city in 2005. More than 250 patients are nowbeing told to get tested for HIV and hepatitis B and C.
Dr. Trevor Theman, the registrar of the college, says they came forward on March 23 on the heels of revelations of similar problems atVegreville's hospital because it was in the interest of public health. The college didn't bring the issue up sooner because provincial legislation spells out the need for confidentiality, he said.
Stelmach said it's time to take a second look at those barriers.
"We're going to just review what legislation maybe impedes— better transparency and earlier reporting to the government," he said.
Themansaid he intends to willingly co-operate in reviewing the legislation, but he makes no apologies for not telling the government about the Lloydminster investigation sooner.
"In this particular case we did what we could, reasonably," he said.
Theman says when the college receives a complaint, it has a duty to keep details private and going public may not be in the best interests of people who makecomplaints, the doctors involved or the general public.
Ombudsman wants to look into doctor complaints
Meanwhile, Alberta's ombudsman, Gord Button, says he should have the power to deal with complaints against physicians under the Health Care Professions Act.
Button does have that right when it comes to dentists or social workers, but he has been waiting four years for the government to work out the details so he can deal with complaints against doctors.
"Certainly I think it is very important that there is a complaint-handling mechanism established within professions as important to Albertans as the health professions. And think it's equally important that there be an independent, external oversight of those processes."
He says if those regulations had been in place two years ago, the Lloydminster situation would not have come as a surprise to the health minister.