With the announcement that the independent health inquiry will be allotted a $10-million operating budget, the province is one step closer to initiating the inquiry promised by Premier Alison Redford.
“This funding will provide the inquiry panel with the resources it requires for a thorough examination of the issues,” Health Minister Fred Horne said in a July 25 press release.
The public inquiry is a response to the Health Quality Council of Alberta’s “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.”
It will look into whether patients were able to jump the queue in awaiting health care. However, it will not investigate whether doctors were systematically silenced by government officials after speaking publicly on patient care. The Health Quality Council report found that nearly half of Alberta’s doctors reported they had suffered some form of official intimidation.
In a February press conference, Alberta Health Services CEO Dr. Chris Eagle explained that element of the report did not need to be independently investigated, and that with 3,500 physicians in Alberta, “a review of that magnitude is far beyond our ability to do.”
There is no scheduled start date for the inquiry, though by law it must wrap up by April 30, 2013, unless the legislative Assembly grants an extension. Alberta has not held a public inquiry since the Code Inquiry into the billion-dollar collapse of the Principal Group of Companies in 1987.
The inquiry will be led by retired Northwest Territories Supreme Court judge John Vertes.