A thoracic surgeon who claims he was forced from his job in Edmonton more than a decade ago says he can't talk about the experience unless there is a public inquiry into allegations of physician intimidation.
In a letter released Monday by the Alberta Liberals, Dr. Ciaran McNamee says he needs proper legal protection in order to speak.
"I and other physicians who have left Alberta likely would be willing to help, if invited, to give our account and opinion, but only in the context of where we are legally protected and this would be received in an unbiased fashion," McNamee writes.
The province has launched a review by the Health Quality Council to analyze surgical and emergency room wait times and allegations of physician intimidation.
McNamee says that review won't be unbiased or result in significant change because it is being held behind closed doors and people on the council have ties to Alberta Health Services.
He said many doctors who have left Alberta are bound by severance agreements that prohibit them from speaking out.
"If the hearings were truly open and indemnified, and by an authority legally empowered to hold people accountable, I suspect that many of us would be willing to testify."
Premier Ed Stelmach and Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky maintain there are legal protections included in the Health Quality Council review and a public inquiry isn't necessary. Liberal leader David Swann said the council probe won't work for McNamee.
"He was dismissed. He was called crazy. His reputation was impugned," Swann said.
"He's now an internationally recognized lung surgeon and he's still willing to come if he's protected, if his non-disclosure agreement does not preclude him from being able to give his evidence and it would only be protected under the auspices of a public inquiry."
Despite the province's assurances, a doctor bound by a non-disclosure agreement can only testify if he or she is subpoened by a court or a tribunal, or if they receive a waiver from their former employer to participate, according to employment lawyer Dan Bokenfohr.
"When a doctor signs a non-disclosure agreement as part of a settlement, usually the restrictions are that they're not to disclose any information concerning the terms of the settlement or the terms of their departure from their employment unless required to by law," he said.
McNamee claimed in a 2001 lawsuit filed against Capital Health and two senior officials that he had been forced from his job and was subject to questioning about his competency and mental health.
He alleged this took place after he raised concerns about patient care with Conservative MLAs and the deputy health minister. None of the allegations were proven in court as the matter never went to trial. The lawsuit was settled in 2006.
McNamee now teaches at Harvard University and works as a surgeon at a top Boston-area hospital.