Montreal doctors accused of taking bribes
Cardiologists allegedly accepted cash to push patients to front of wait list
Two Montreal cardiologists are facing disciplinary action over allegations they received hefty kickbacks to push patients to the top of the waiting list, the Quebec College of Physicians says.
The college's investigation uncovered at least two doctors who were allegedly taking envelopes of cash in exchange for providing faster service, Dr. Charles Bernard told CBC News.
"It's awful," said Bernard, who heads the college. "It's unacceptable … Usually, physicians have a good job, a good pay. It's very difficult for me to understand that."
The investigation was triggered 14 months ago, when a Montreal woman told the news media she had paid a $2,000 cash "incentive" to have her mother bumped to the top of a waiting list.
After the investigation, the college said two cardiologists from Montreal would face a disciplinary hearing later this year in connection with such incidents. Bernard would not discuss the details of the cases, as nothing yet has been proved.
'Disgusting for the medical profession'
Dr. Gaetan Barrette, the head of Quebec's federation of specialist doctors, said he hoped the college would send a clear message that the alleged behaviour is unacceptable.
"It's disgusting for the medical profession," he told CBC News. "There are no other reasons I can think of other than greed for those doctors to go in that direction."
Barrette said the two cardiologists could be suspended, but it is unlikely they will be prohibited from practising permanently. A sanction that harsh is typically reserved for extreme cases, such as sexual assault of a patient, he said.
Bernard said he hoped members of the public would come forward and expose any others who might be manipulating Quebec's medical system in an unethical way.
But Jean-Pierre Ménard, a lawyer who specializes in health law and patients rights, said there is little incentive for those who know about these practices to bring them to light.
"When the patient is offering cash to the doctor, and the doctor is accepting the cash … both of them have an interest not to tell the story," he told CBC News.