Alberta's queue-jumping inquiry has been extended by seven days, after a slew of concerning evidence was brought forward this week.
Proceedings in the inquiry were scheduled to wrap up Friday, but a surge of new witnesses means the inquiry will continue next month in Calgary.
"I can advise that we are interviewing them now and if we determine that we need to call them, they'll be called," explained inquiry lawyer Ellen Embury to Global Edmonton.
The news comes after calls for Alberta's opposition parties to extend the inquiry that has examined whether private clinics helped province VIPs and people of wealth jump the line to the top of waiting lists.
“I’m ... suggesting that they extend their hearings in order to dig more deeply into the question of private clinics facilitating superior access for people who can afford to pay more," NDP Leader Brian Mason told the Edmonton Journal on Friday.
“The development of private clinics in our province is a way to facilitate queue jumping," said Mason.
However, reports the Journal, the extension will only hear additonal testimony about the terms of reference for the inquiry, not about private clinics.
“Should the commissioner (John Vertes) reach the conclusion that an extension would be required in order to meet the terms of the mandate he has been given, he would direct a request to the minister of health for approval,” inquiry executive director Sheila-Marie Cook wrote in an email to the Journal.
“The Order in Council which established the inquiry would then be amended to reflect any additional time that would be accorded.”
When the inquiry resumes, reports the Calgary Sun, seven experts will testify what constitutes preferential access.
Inquiry head counsel Michele Hollins told The Sun that this week's testimony -- which heard patients at Calgary's private Helios clinic were pushed to the top of the wait list at the Forzani and MacPhail Colon Cancer Screening Centre -- needed further examination.
“We do have some work to do in finalizing investigating the CCSC and Helios case,” said Hollins.
The extension will come as welcome news to the Wildrose Party.
Wildrose MLA Kerry Towle told the Journal that more questions need to be asked before the inquiry can be put to rest.
“Clearly something untoward has happened … and it’s disturbing,” Towle said.
“Are there other operators offering the same services? Did this happen in other areas of specialty? ... I think Justice Vertes needs more time to do his job properly.”
<a href="http://www.edmontonjournal.com/health/Author+controversial+memo+testifies+knows+nothing+about+actual+queue+jumping+occurring/7650220/story.html">A controversial memo sent out in 2009 at Alberta Health Services came under fire </a>as it stated that it was not uncommon for health care executives to receive requests for faster care by prominent individuals. Source: Edmonton Journal
Raj Sherman Treats Fellow MLAs
In December of 2012, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/12/13/health-exec-says-no-press_n_2294244.html?utm_hp_ref=canada-alberta">Alberta Liberal Leader Raj Sherman said he has written prescriptions, given advice and diagnosed politicians who dropped by his legislature office</a> but said it wasn't preferential treatment. Source: CP
Calgary Flames Skip Lineup To Get Swine Flu Shots
In November of 2009, <a href="http://www.ctvnews.ca/calgary-flames-score-flu-shots-skip-public-lineups-1.450313">Calgary Flames and their families skipped lines and received swine flu shots</a> at a special clinic, as thousands of people waited or were turned away for the H1N1 vaccination. Source: CTV News
Alberta Doctor Say ER Staff Told To Treat VIPs Faster
An Alberta emergency room doctor told the Alberta Health queue jumping inquiry that medical staff in a busy ER were once pressured to provide care for a "VIP" ahead of a waiting room full of very sick people. Read the full story <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/12/05/alberta-health-queue-jumping-inquiry-doctors-told-to-treat-vips-faster_n_2246517.html?utm_hp_ref=canada-alberta">here</a>.
Vancouver Queue Jumping
In 2007, <a href="http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=141706">Dr. Brian Day a top doctor in Vancouver and a former president of the Canadian Medical Association</a> admitted to queue jumping on two instances. He said it was not realsistic to expect people to not use their connections when their own or their family's health is at stake. Source: The National Post