Former healthcare director recounts single preferential treatment incident
Published Thursday, December 13, 2012 6:57PM MST Last Updated Thursday, December 13, 2012 7:11PM MST
On the last day of two weeks of testimony on preferential treatment within Alberta’s healthcare system, the inquiry heard from two high profile players in provincial healthcare.
Brigette McDonough, the former Director of Critical Care at the University of Alberta Hospital testified Thursday – and claimed there was pressure to provide extra care for certain patients, but it didn’t happen.
That is, except for one incident.
McDonough said she was contacted several times per year by her superiors about ‘VIPs’ in the ER waiting room, but she said, they were only checked up on – and not moved up waiting lists.
“They did not feel that they delivered care any differently to a person who was prominent,” McDonough testified.
“What they might get maybe is an extra smile.”
However, in her testimony, McDonough recounted one incident that was an exception.
She outlined e-mails between ER doctors and healthcare officials, alleging a prominent patient was in the waiting room at the U of A Hospital in 2007.
On the night in question, the Emergency Room was extremely busy, and staff at the hospital were asked to check on the ‘VIP’.
McDonough said she made the call to check on the patient, after she received a call from the CEO of Capital Health at the time, Sheila Weatherill.
“She told me that there was an individual in the ER who had been in the ER for some time,” McDonough said.
She testified at first, the nurse refused the request outright.
“She said, ‘Are you telling me that I have to?’,” McDonough said. “I said ‘Yes, I’m directing you to please go and see this patient, and if this patient is in any pain then could you please have one of the Emergency Room physicians come out and take a look at them?’’
The former executive testified that she made the directive after she was pressured by Weatherill – which McDonough said happened often.
The name of the ‘VIP’ was not disclosed – the judge presiding over the hearing said at this point in the process, the patient’s name is not relevant.
However, Justice John Vertes said he had not ruled out releasing the name in the future.
Liberal Leader and part time Emergency Room physician Raj Sherman also testified Thursday, and said while he has helped his colleagues with health care, it’s not queue jumping.
In his testimony, Sherman admitted he had written prescriptions, given medical advice, and diagnosed other provincial politicians who dropped by his office in the legislature.
However, he said it wasn’t queue-jumping – he called it a ‘professional courtesy’.
He said he had only heard second-hand reports of patients jumping the queue for care, but had never seen it first-hand.
Thursday was the final day of hearings in Edmonton on the preferential treatment inquiry – proceedings will continue in the New Year.
It’s not known if Sheila Weatherill will testify.
With files from Bill Fortier