Allegations that provincial Tory insiders, including at least one Conservative MLA, used their positions of authority and influence to get preferential medical care for themselves and their friends raises a very strong case for a public inquiry.
Former Alberta Health Services president and CEO Dr. Stephen Duckett recently told a medical conference that Alberta's health-care system has been unfairly manipulated.
“It is not uncommon for executive members or other leaders of health-care organizations to receive requests to provide preferential or expedited care for prominent individuals or the family and acquaintances of prominent people,” said Duckett.
“By its very nature, such a scenario represents queue jumping, a practice that a public health- care organization cannot defend or support.”
Duckett said that those ‘prominent people' included “politicians and other government officials” and a “very prominent Tory MLA.”
In response, current Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky called on Dr. Duckett to reveal the names of those persons who sought or receive preferential treatment.
"Something that someone may have told somebody somewhere in the past doesn't hold much steam in my opinion," said Zwozdesky.
The opposition parties have been quick to call the allegations proof of the Stelmach government mismanagement of the health system.
“There are mounting allegations of corruption in this government's management of public health care. More than ever, we need a public inquiry to uncover the truth,” said Liberal leader Dr. David Swann.
NDP Leader Brian Mason is asking the RCMP to investigate.
“To have privileged access that allows only Conservative MLAs to jump the queue is completely wrong. And I believe Albertans will find it unacceptable,” said Mason.
For their part, the Conservatives have been quick to say a public inquiry is not something the government plans to allow. Yet since these allegations of dishonesty and unethical behaviour are aimed directly at Conservative MLAs, should such a position be a surprise to anyone?
In any event, with a comfortable majority in the legislature, the Stelmach Tories will easily be able to put off any demands for a public inquiry, no matter how vocal the opposition calls may become.
Yet by refusing to allow an independent inquiry into the Klein and Stelmach governments' health-care management practices and policies, the Tories are only fuelling public concerns and doubts about the fairness of the health system itself.
At the same time, doesn't refusing to let an independent review get to the bottom of these very, very serious allegations cast a shadow on every Conservative MLA, including those in West Central Alberta?
There are many good and honest MLAs, including Conservatives, in the legislature. Those same men and women should do the right thing and push for a far-reaching health-care inquiry.