12/06/2013 04:49 EST | Updated 02/05/2014 05:59 EST

Alberta medical group puts off decision on rules for private clinics

EDMONTON - Alberta's College of Physicians and Surgeons has put off making a decision on rules for private clinics that charge for uninsured medical services.

College registrar Dr. Trevor Theman (THEE'-muhn) says the college first needs a clear definition of an uninsured medical service.

He says a working committee made up of the Alberta Medical Association and other groups is to come up with a recommendation, hopefully by March.

In September, the college released draft standards that said private clinics cannot promise access to insured services to patients who are already paying fees for uninsured medical procedures.

Theman says feedback from more than 400 people and groups suggested the public health system is not providing adequate access to services.

But he says opinions vary sharply on what should be done to improve access to services that include MRIs and CT scans.

"Some simply want the public system to be better funded so that services are available so they don't have to pay a fee," Theman said Friday.

"Others say, 'it is what it is' and maybe we should look at another mechanism — many countries have parallel private systems.

"Others say leave things as they are."

Theman said the task facing the college is challenging.

The working group will have to decide whether it should focus strictly on medical services doctors can legally bill patients for or if it should broaden the discussion to include definitions of what is "medically insured" or "medically necessary."

Defining what is an uninsured medical service must come first, he said.

"It is very important to nail it down. Making access contingent or not on paying for uninsured services requires us to define what those services would be."

The Alberta Medical Association declined comment.