Inquiry into political interference in healthcare system underway
Published Monday, December 3, 2012 12:26PM MST Last Updated Monday, December 3, 2012 7:25PM MST
The inquiry into allegations of medical queue jumping got underway in Edmonton Monday – the testimony set the stage for the former AHS CEO to testify Tuesday.
Two experts testified Monday, providing the educational framework of the Canada Health Act – which governs how healthcare is delivered in a publicly-funded system, based on need, not the ability to pay.
“”Take that out of the equation, and you can think of it as freeing the system,” Dalhousie Health Law Professor William Lahey said. “Everyone who has the ability to make decisions on the system, to focus on relative clinical need, to distribute the resource in accordance with who needs them the most urgently.”
The inquiry was originally announced in February, and will investigate whether certain people were given preferential treatment in Alberta’s healthcare system.
Questions on preferential access were raised after former Alberta Health Services CEO Stephen Duckett referenced queue jumping in a speech he made in Toronto a year and a half ago, after he was fired.
In his speech, Duckett alleged that before he was head of AHS, some people had been able to move up the list for treatment with help from MLAs.
The Health Quality Council of Alberta has also reported some patients were moving up on waiting lists for specialists or surgery.
That report was released in February, it prompted the inquiry.
Professor Lahey spent Monday morning describing how paying for MRIs and other diagnostic tools can lead to queue jumping, and in the afternoon, an expert analyzed waiting lists, and how they are managed.
“There is some perception of preferential access, but no one has studied it in a systematic way,” Lahey said. “This is commission could be interesting and important from that point of view.”
Some critics have complained the terms of reference are too limited and the inquiry should also investigate the allegations of intimidation, physician bullying and mismanagement in the system.
The inquiry is being headed up by Justice John Vertes.
On Tuesday, former AHS CEO Stephen Duckett will testify by video link from Australia.
Two weeks of hearings will take place in Edmonton; hearings in Calgary have been scheduled for January.
With files from Serena Mah