12/03/2014 02:46 EST | Updated 02/02/2015 05:59 EST

Alberta NDP Asks Auditor To Investigate Political Meddling In Hospital Repairs

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EDMONTON - Alberta's infrastructure minister promised Wednesday to make more information public following reports that the government is manipulating hospital repair priority lists for political gain.

Manmeet Bhullar, while not acknowledging whether the accusations were true, said openness is paramount.

"We will ensure that in any report where a consultant's view is disagreed with by Alberta Health or Alberta Infrastructure, the revised document _ with reasons _ for why the decision is disagreed to must be posted online,'' Bhullar told the house during question period.

"And we'll start doing that tomorrow.''

A Postmedia series that has been running this week details a backlog in hospital upgrades and repairs worth hundreds of millions of dollars, perhaps as high as $1 billion.

The stories detail how in recent years the government has changed how it rates hospital repairs to prevent valid year-to-year comparisons and to give the appearance hospitals are in good shape.

The Postmedia report also revealed that government officials sometimes ignore independent repair ratings and substitute them with their own in-house evaluations.

It found that of 18 hospitals that had their ratings changed to effectively give them a higher priority for repair, 14 were in ridings represented by the Progressive Conservatives and four were in ridings where the PCs lost in close votes to the Opposition Wildrose in the last election.

"Everything about the process of evaluating hospitals is a mess,'' Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith told the house.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley told reporters she has sent a letter to the auditor general to ask him to investigate the allegations of favouritism.

"This government is engaging in political manipulation of information around the state of disrepair with respect to Alberta's health-care infrastructure,'' said Notley.

"It's playing politics with the health care of Albertans. And Albertans deserve better than that. We need to know our health care is there for us when we need it.''

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