POLITICS
03/01/2012 05:00 EST | Updated 05/01/2012 05:12 EDT

I kept my promise: Alberta premier Redford on health inquiry

EDMONTON - Alberta Premier Alison Redford says she is keeping her promise to get to the bottom of allegations that doctors have been intimidated for speaking up about the province's health care.

But in a telephone news conference from Chicago, she said it's time to move past those concerns and get on with reforming the system.

"At some point we have to move ahead and we have to resolve things," Redford said Thursday.

"We know that in workplaces there are sometimes difficult situations, and I'm not diminishing those, and we've accepted the fact those circumstances happened. But if we go any further than this, all we end up doing is reliving the past."

On Tuesday, Health Minister Fred Horne announced an inquiry to follow up a damning Health Quality Council report of abuse and mismanagement in health care.

But even though Redford had promised a few days earlier that the inquiry would further explore evidence that doctors had been bullied and sanctioned for speaking out, Horne said it would only be given a mandate to look into alleged queue-jumping for treatments and surgeries.

Reaction was swift and heated. Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith called the premier "a woman that can't be trusted."

NDP Leader Brian Mason said Redford is "contradicting her own committment," while Liberal Leader Raj Sherman said she is rewriting history on the promise she made.

On Thursday, Redford said her government's inquiry does fulfil her promises, which were central to her campaign for the Tory leadership. If the inquiry decides doctor intimidation and queue-jumping are related, it may look into both, she said.

"At the end of the day it will be for the inquiry to decide how to do their work and there's nothing that I can do to impact the way they decide to do that work."

Redford said there's little to be gained from going beyond the general findings in the health council's report into specific instances that could be revealed in an inquiry. The issue of intimidation will be resolved, she suggested, as the government implements the 21 recommendations in the report.

"We can implement these recommendations and improve health care for Albertans."