Skip to main content
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Calgary Flames' Jarome Iginla, second from right, was one of about 150 people close to the Flames organization who received the H1N1 vaccination in a private session.

TODD KOROL/Reuters

The Calgary Flames and others connected to the team got a private vaccination session during the 2009 H1N1 influenza scare after a team doctor raised concerns with Alberta Health Services that the players might cause chaos at public clinics, an inquiry has been told.

Revelations about the arrangement became a sore point with ordinary Albertans, some of whom waited hours for their shots at the public clinics, and the situation was further inflamed when those clinics turned away patients because of a vaccine shortage.

James Thorne, a physician with the National Hockey League franchise, told the provincial inquiry into queue jumping on Friday that he now regrets raising his concerns about security and privacy for the players with a public health nurse who happened to be one of his patients. But he said he also told her, "We don't want to be marched past the lineup."

Story continues below advertisement

He testified that the nurse called back with instructions from further up the chain of command that if Dr. Thorne could open his own clinic, then AHS would release some vaccine. She and another nurse voluntarily administered the shots.

Flames' president Ken King approved the arrangement, he added.

Still, when asked about the questionable optics, Dr. Thorne said he thought it "might be an issue."

"There were five-hour lineups, and we weren't going to be in that lineup," he said.

About 150 people – players, their families and team officials – got the vaccine, and the two nurses declined Dr. Thorne's offer of free hockey tickets as a thank you.

The shots were given on Oct. 30, 2009, – the day AHS announced a vaccine shortage and began closing clinics. Concerns about a shortage had surfaced previously across the continent, but Dr. Thorne said he was surprised to learn of the local supply problem when he read about it in the newspaper the next day, and thought: "This is going to be bad. We weren't in a lineup and now people can't get it."

Two health-care workers at AHS were later fired.

Story continues below advertisement

"Regrettably, we took the offer," Dr. Thorne said, "and in hindsight we probably should have got in that lineup with our own security."

Ken Hughes, who was chairman of the AHS superboard at the time and is now Alberta's energy minister, told the inquiry he was "deeply offended" when he learned about the incident and called it a "very serious breach of a standard." He also shared his view of VIP queue jumping.

"They should damn well line up with the rest of us," he said.

The probe also heard about the quick care of another high-profile athlete, Canadian triathlete Paula Findlay, from her father, Edmonton neurosurgeon Max Findlay.

Dr. Findlay recalled a 2011 call from his daughter's coach, who said Ms. Findlay was experiencing pain in her right hip. Dr. Findlay consulted a radiologist, who said magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) should be done "urgently."

"I thought either that day or the next day – from a father's point of view – he thought it should be done that day," Dr. Findlay recalled.

Story continues below advertisement

Dr. Findlay told the inquiry that his daughter's immediate access to the test in the public system didn't amount to a favour and she didn't bump any other patient, but added that his involvement in the situation made him "uncomfortable."

"But I didn't have an alternative, so I was okay with it," he said.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta later reminded Dr. Findlay of the code of ethics that prohibits doctors from treating family members. He apologized.

Ms. Findlay, who was later diagnosed with a bad muscle strain, took time away from competition, but entered the London Olympics last summer a favourite to win a medal. She finished last amid allegations that her team mismanaged her injury.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies