Patients from private clinic skipped to front of line: doctors
Published Saturday, January 19, 2013 12:53PM EST
Allegations of queue-jumping continue to pour in against a private health-care clinic in Calgary.
Two doctors testified Friday at an inquiry into alleged queue-jumping at a publicly funded colon cancer screening centre.
It is alleged that the Helios Wellness Centre often arranged preferential treatment for its patients, who went to the head of the line.
Dr. Jonathan Love, a gastroenterologist from the Foothills Medical Centre, told the inquiry that he first became curious when he was asked to see a patient with no urgent medical condition and with no written referral.
“So the Friday it gets phoned in for a moderate risk by any criteria, which is a 10-month waiting list, and I see her on Monday. That’s unusual,” he said.
Love said he visited the Helios centre to see why its patients were skipping to the front of the line. He said he was informed by Dr. Ron Bridges of the centre’s practice of rewarding those who donate to the University of Calgary.
"It's a private clinic with a physio and diet and comprehensive care and he (Bridges) volunteered that it was also, in some basis, a reward for the philanthropic community of the University of Calgary," says Dr. Love. "I tried not to look surprised but I said 'Oh, interesting.’
"I don't know about you but where I come from, it's not charity if you get a reward," Love said.
Dr. Valerie Boswell, a physician at the colonoscopy clinic, said she also couldn’t understand why she was always seeing Helios patients who had been rushed in for colon cancer screening with no urgent medical reasons.
She said after inquiring with the Helios centre she was “grilled” by staff on how she found out about the centre and “what she knew.”
NDP Leader Brian Mason said the ongoing inquiry is proving the party’s point that Alberta offers a superior standard of health care for those willing to pay for it.
“In my view these private clinics are the Trojan Horse for two-tiered health care,” Mason told reporters Friday.
He said Albertans deserve to know if private clinics are facilitating better care for residents who can pay more.
The inquiry is going to break for two weeks and will resume with the testimony of Dr. Ron Bridges, the physician accused of facilitating the queue-jumping practice.
Bridges is an associate dean at the University of Calgary’s medical school.
With a report from CTV Calgary’s Chris Epp