Colon centre founder's patients skipped queue, inquiry told

Clinic manager testifies at the health care queue-jumping probe in Calgary.

Queue-jumping inquiry

9 years ago
Long-awaited testimony from two key witnesses at the queue-jumping inquiry, both from the Calgary cancer screening centre that's the focus of allegations. Bryan Labby reports. 3:04

The doctor who founded a publicly-funded colon cancer screening centre booked his own patients ahead of others waiting on long waiting lists, the health care queue-jumping inquiry was told on Wednesday.

Darlene Pontifex, who manages the Forzani and MacPhail Colon Cancer Screening Centre, testified that it was "probably not fair" for her boss, Dr. Ron Bridges, to book patients in that manner.

The inquiry has heard witnesses allege the centre also allowed patients from Helios Wellness Centre, a private clinic in the same building at the Foothills Medical Centre, to skip the queue for cancer screenings.

Helios patients regularly received colonoscopies within weeks, while patients from the general public had to wait years for the exam, the inquiry has been told.

Helios staff has faced a barrage of questions so far in the inquiry about how they referred their patients.

When questioned about referrals from Helios, Pontifex said she didn't investigate claims of queue jumping because she didn't believe it was happening.

She admitted under questioning that her own membership to Helios — which normally costs $10,000 — was waived as a professional courtesy.

Confronted by a lawyer, the clinic’s Dr. Douglas Caine said on Tuesday he had no knowledge of his low-risk patients being referred to the colon screening centre as urgent priority.

Caine did say there are times he would contact a doctor at a different health centre.

"If I've been working with a receptionist or with a nurse to try and secure an appointment for my patient, the next step would be to phone a physician and say, 'Hey, you know what, this hasn't happened.' You would phone a physician and say, 'Can you help me?’"