Former patients and staff allege there was never a doctor on site at a private addiction rehab treatment centre in Sundre, Alberta.
Patti Beaulieu, a former patient at that location, took out a second mortgage to pay for a two-month stay with Addiction Canada. It cost $30,000.
Beaulieu was hopeful going to a private facility was going to save her life.
She said she was promised a world-class retreat with medical staff including a licensed doctor and nurses who would help her kick a highly-addictive drug originally prescribed for anxiety.
Beaulieu says she was under the impression she was being cared for by a licensed doctor in detox the whole time.
“He never ever told me that he wasn’t not once,” she said.
Three former staff members told CTV there was never a licensed physician at the facility. Instead, a physician assistant or PA, looked after patients going through detox.
One former PA agreed to an interview if his identity was concealed. He said he assessed patients in detox and reported to one of two doctors in Edmonton, who were contracted by Addiction Canada. That doctor would write prescriptions without even meeting patients.
“If I needed something, I would email him or talk to him on the phone and he would tell me what to do and I would go to that,” said the PA. “I was working for this guy and that’s the way it was. I think he should’ve came.”
Physician assistants can register with the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Alberta, but the profession is unregulated. According to the college, a PA can work as long as the physician believes the PA has the skill, knowledge and judgment to carry out doctor’s orders, but the doctor must be readily available for consultation.
Former health care aid Anne Green, who worked at the rehab centre, said none of the physicians were providing adequate supervision.
“How could they?” Green said. “He was never there.”
CTV reached out to one of the contracted doctors who wanted to remain anonymous. He said he never prescribed medication to detox patients and didn’t even know detoxification was taking place in the Sundre location. When he found out, he said he advised the facility to stop and then left.
John Haines, the owner of Addiction Canada, defends the facility’s medical care. In a statement he said all the patients were assessed by a nurse and if needed they were taken to two doctors in the town of Sundre. He also said he never advertised a doctor on-site at his facilities even though the website states:
“With our medical detox setting, staff members, including nurses and doctors are supervising you 24/7 to ensure you are safe,” and “a full medical detox facility with medical staff on site 24/7.”
Haines is currently facing charges in Ontario for his Addiction Canada facilities there. His charges include fraud of more than $6-million dollars and drug trafficking. Two of his former employees in Ontario also face charges for allegedly posing as medical doctors.