Answers sought in queue jumping inquiry
Published Tuesday, February 19, 2013 6:15AM MST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 19, 2013 5:30PM MST
A private Calgary medical clinic was once again at the centre of the Health Services Preferential Access Inquiry.
On Tuesday, a doctor from the Helios Clinic said he never tried to put his patients at the front of the line for colon cancer screening.
Dr. Douglas Caine said he often called the screening centre because his patient's referrals were getting lost.
"A patient that comes back in and we're having a conversation or we're doing another physical exam and saying what happened to that referral? And you phone there and you find out that it's lost and so, I mean, on more than one occasion I've been in a room with a patient and phoned the Colon Cancer Screening Centre and said what's happened with this referral?" said Dr. Caine.
Last month, the testimony suggested that the clinic was reserved for university donors and other high profile clients who were given special treatment.
On Tuesday morning, a nurse from the clinic testified that she couldn't answer those questions but the inquiry did learn that 670 patients paid $10,000 each to join Helios.
The founder of the clinic, Dr. Chen Fong, was also on the stand and said he went through the client list and that only seven people, including himself, are donors to the U of C and that none of them received special treatment at any time.
Dr. Fong says the clinic was specifically designed to raise money for a fellowship grant for medical students and that it is non-profit. He added that he doesn't even collect a salary and that he only gets a free parking spot.
Friends of Medicare says it’s good that people are finding out about what happens behind closed doors.
“It speaks to the failure of both the provincial and federal government’s to enforce the letter and spirit of the Canada Health Act around universal accessibility,” Jade Boldt says.
Brian Mason, the leader of Alberta’s NDP, says it's time to put all private clinics under the microscope.
“They should call individuals that may have knowledge about private clinics or have worked there or have been patients there in order to get to the bottom of it,” says Mason. “In my view these private clinics are the Trojan Horse for two-tiered health care.”
Mason says Albertans deserve to know if private clinics are facilitating better care for people who can pay more.
Dr. Ron Bridge is expected to testify on Wednesday.