‘Sure it’s going on. Like duh.’

Here’s the scenario.  In 2006 a private clinic, Helios, opened its doors to well-heeled Calgarians who could afford to pay a $10,000 annual membership fee ($15,000 for couples).
The Helios Clinic was allowed to lease prime real estate in the new publically-funded University of Calgary Health Sciences Building which just happened to be on the same property as the Foothills Hospital.
Albertans were assured that this clinic would in no way jeopardize care in the public system and . . . in fact, it was suggested parallel private care would actually take pressure off the public system.
In 2008 the Forzani & MacPhail Colon Cancer Screening Clinic opened at the same prestigious address to take over colon screenings previously done in hospitals. Although significant donations were received from the Forzani and MacPhail families, the Screening Clinic was a public institution operating under the auspices of AHS and the U of C Medical Faculty.
On its homepage the Forzani Screening Clinic states, “it triages and assigns priority based on risk assessment”. Yet that’s not what Dr. Jonathan Love, a leading Calgary physician testified to at the Health Services Preferential Access Inquiry on January 18, 2013.
He said that a doctor at the Helios clinic told him the private clinic was set up for U of C donors.  “It was a reward for the philanthropic community of the University of Calgary, to jump the long queues and get preferential treatment”.
Dr. Valerie Boswell another leading Calgary physician, who worked at the Forzani Cancer Clinic since 2009 saw and complained about the queue-jumping-Helios clients. Many Helios, who were not priority risk patients, were jumped ahead of high risk patients entering from the public system.
Can’t you just hear it, “I’ve paid $10,000 a year and you’re crazy if you think I’m waiting three years for a colonoscopy? I’m phoning the Premier and the Chairman of the U of C and we’ll just see about this. I’ve given the U of C over two million dollars this year and you expect me to wait.  Not in this life time”.
And therein is the problem when a government accepts low taxes for the rich in exchange for private donations to fund public facilities.
Like duh? If well-heeled Albertans have the money and not the government to fund our health care system, logic suggests that the system will be built around the donor’s needs first and the public’s needs second. And that’s how a public health care system seamlessly evolves into a two-tier system where the more money you have the better care you get.
You don’t need an expensive, lengthy public inquiry to get to the truth of queue jumping in our public health care system.  You just need to talk to your front-line staff as Dr. Love did . . .  “Sure it’s going on. Like duh.”

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