Alberta’s health care system has been compromised by queue-jumping and preferential treatment, according the long-awaited results of an investigation into allegations of impropriety.
Justice John Vertes announced on Wednesday that queue-jumping has occurred in the Alberta health care system. Not only that, the environment is right for it to happen again.
Vertes made a dozen recommendations in the “Health Services Preferential Access Inquiry Report,” which detailed occurrences in which preferential treatment within the health care system resulted in unfair treatment for patients.
“This inquiry has clearly demonstrated that myriad opportunities exist for improper preferential access in the health care system because of the multiple ways to access that system and the wide discretion granted to physicians, other health care professionals and administrators,” Vertes wrote in his summary.
“Lengthy wait times throughout the system also foster the motivation to jump the queue. That is human nature.”
Vertes did also note that there was no empirical evidence stating that others have “suffered adverse health consequences” from others jumping the queue.
“However, the perception remains that some receive faster access to health care because of status or connections, not medical need. This is just as damaging to confidence in the public health care system as the actual cases of queue-jumping identified in this report,” he added.
The inquiry was called last year in response to allegations that Alberta's $16-billion health care system was being taken advantage of by those able to pay extra or otherwise received expedited service.
The Edmonton Journal reports these incidents include the private Helios Wellness Centre, where patients who paid a $10,000 membership were able to received colonoscopies within months, while others were forced to wait years.
The inquiry also touched on the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, when 150 players, staff and family associated with the Calgary Flames were given the vaccine at a private clinic.
The inquiry concluded in April and the results were released on Wednesday. The summary makes 12 recommendations, which include:
- Strengthen the queue-jumping provisions of the Health Care Protection Act
- Expand protection for those who blow the whistle on queue-jumping to include health care professionals not employed by the Alberta Health Service.
- Work to improve wait times in the health care system and develop a strategy on how to handle waiting lists
- Consider creating the position of Health Adocate, which would operate like a patient ombudsman
- Establish a policy on how to make special accommodations during pandemics
- Develop a policy on preferential access to health care, to determine what is justifiable and what is not.
“We appreciate the recommendations brought forward on how to further strengthen Albertans’ confidence in our health care system," Health Minister Fred Horne said in a statement, adding that they have accepted the recommendations in full and will move forward with those that require legislation.
"We will now engage in meaningful discussions with Alberta Health Services and the appropriate colleges on how we will implement these enhancements."
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