Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Inquiry Hears of How Secret Deal Let Private Patients Jump Queue for Colon Tests

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Inquiry Hears of How Secret Deal Let Private Patients Jump Queue for Colon Tests

Article excerpt

Secret queue-jump deal at Calgary public clinic


CALGARY - While ordinary Albertans waited three years for a colon cancer test, patients at a private clinic were treated in just weeks under an informal agreement with Calgary's flagship colon care screening clinic, an inquiry was told Tuesday.

Three staffers from the Forzani and MacPhail Colon Cancer Screening Centre testified that when it came to non-urgent tests, they were directed to slot Helios Wellness Centre patients in as soon as possible, bumping other non-urgent patients down the list.

"It was a common practice with Helios to make sure they were a priority," testified Samantha Mallyon, a clerk who quit the publicly funded Forzani Centre in 2011 due to frustration over management.

The inquiry was told Helios was a prestigious private clinic providing care to "executive patients."

Mallyon said the favoured patients were funnelled through three doctors at the Forzani Clinic.

"I assumed that it was an agreement between the clinics. I assumed that it was something to do with AHS (the government management body Alberta Health Services)," she said.

"I never questioned it to management."

But she said the clerks were irked.

"More just griping," she said. "Wondering why these patients were priority versus others."

If borne out, it would be the first example at the inquiry of organized, systemic queue-jumping in the provincial health system. Some doctors have already testified to examining friends and colleagues in an ad hoc fashion after hours as personal favours.

The Forzani Centre opened just over four years ago at the Foothills Medical Centre and is run in conjunction with the University of Calgary and the province.

When constructed, it was billed as the first dedicated stand-alone clinic to test for colon cancer, treating more than 10,000 patients a year.

Forzani clerk David Beninger testified when he joined the facility in 2011, he noticed that patients from Helios, located nearby, were being moved up the queue for routine tests. …

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