In the third day of a two-week preferential treatment inquiry, a doctor who sounded the alarm over a potential catastrophe within the healthcare system took the stand.

Back in 2010, a leaked e-mail from Dr. Paul Parks prompted the province to introduce new emergency room wait times.

On Wednesday, the Medicine Hat doctor appeared before the queue jumping probe – and much of his testimony centred on an incident he said took place when he was working for Capital Health at the University Hospital about five years ago.

In November 2007, Dr. Parks said he learned a triage nurse was asked by a senior health official to expedite treatment for a VIP who was waiting in the ER.

“The gist of the conversation was ‘what the heck are you guys doing down there? Why is that VIP still in the waiting room?’” Dr. Parks said.

At the time, ER wait times could be days – and they were severely overcrowded.

“Our triage nurse is one of the very integral pieces of our emergency department in terms of trying to decide who should be seen next,” Dr. Parks said. “There is a very organized evidence-based process for that, but sometimes it’s based on their clinical judgment in who looks sicker, and who needs that bed.”

Parks said in that particular case, the official was told about the current situation in that ER at the time, and there was no way the VIP could get bumped up because a number of more serious cases needed to be dealt with first.

Dr. Parks said preferential treatment was a policy among emergency healthcare workers at the hospital in 2007; it’s believed the policy was a response to an unwritten policy allowing ‘VIPs’ to request faster care.

However, he said he wasn’t directly involved in any case, and he didn’t know if such a practice still exists since former CEO Stephen Duckett issued orders against queue jumping.

Meanwhile, MLAs responded to allegations made by Duckett when he testified in the inquiry Tuesday afternoon.

Liberal Leader Raj Sherman was named by former AHS CEO as a number of MLAs who criticized him.

“It was a criticism leveled to me that ‘fix it people’ weren’t kept in the organization,” Duckett said via video link from Australia Tuesday.

“Absolutely, lack of access for all Albertans in general yes,” Sherman said Wednesday, denying the allegation he criticized Duckett. “But preferential access, no.”

Sherman will testify before the inquiry on December 13.

With files from Serena Mah