Health inquiry has vital public role
The Redford government has announced that up to $10 million will be spent on a public inquiry looking at questions of access to health-care services in Alberta.
The Health Services Preferential Access Inquiry is being led by Justice John Vertes and is being held in response to the Health Quality Council of Alberta’s 2011 Review on the Quality of Care and Safety of Patients Requiring Access to Emergency Department Care and Cancer Surgery and the Role and Process of Physician Advocacy.
“We are committed to ensuring an open, independent and transparent inquiry process,” said Health Minister Fred Horne. “This funding will provide the inquiry panel with the resources it requires for a thorough examination of the issues.”
The inquiry is being conducted in accordance with the Health Quality Council of Alberta Act, with the inquiry panel having all the powers, privileges and immunities of a commissioner under the Public Inquiries Act. Its final report is scheduled to be released in April 2013.
Despite Minister Horne’s assertion that the inquiry will make a “thorough examination of the issues”, Wildrose Opposition health critic Heather Forsyth says she is not convinced the examination will get to the bottom of the very serious charges of physician intimidation levelled against the Tories and Alberta Health.
Specifically she says the current terms of reference restrict the inquiry to the issue of “improper preferential access to publicly funded health services” and not the “pressing question of how Alberta Health Services and the provincial government bullied medical professionals into silence on their concerns about shortcomings in health-care services”.
“What’s the point in spending millions of dollars on an inquiry when it is designed not to get the answers on how to improve our health-care system?” Forsyth said. “Our physicians and front-line health-care workers, who hold our entire health-care system together, deserve better than millions wasted on broken promises.”
Regardless of the politics surrounding the inquiry, and the fact the various parties are trying to put their own spins on the inquiry and its purpose, ordinary Albertans really do have a vested interest in finding out the facts.
Specifically, if physicians and other health-care workers have been intimidated into making decisions that ended up giving some people better health-care treatment than others, then the public deserves to know about it.
Justice John Z. Vertes’ inquiry has been given millions of taxpayer dollars to find out the truth about this very important public health matter.
Here’s hoping that the good judge will ignore the political firestorm raging around his inquiry and will focus exclusively on finding the answers Albertans need.