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The Globe and Mail

No criminal investigation into queue-jumping in Alberta health care, RCMP find

Doctor and MLA Raj Sherman said health care officials in Alberta were too intimidated by superiors to discuss their concerns.

Jason Franson for The Globe and Mail/jason franson The Globe and Mail

The RCMP says it found only anecdotes, stories and rumours when it looked into allegations of queue-jumping in Alberta's health-care system.

As a result, a decision was made not to pursue a full-fledged criminal investigation into the claims, which dominated the last session of the Alberta legislature and led to calls for a public inquiry.

"We were not able to substantiate even a single specific incident of queue-jumping," Sgt. Patrick Webb said on Wednesday. "People talked about it, but no one was able to provide specifics that this actually happened.

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"Anecdotal stories, rumours, are not enough to justify a criminal investigation, criminal charges and court proceedings."

New Democrat Leader Brian Mason had asked police to look into the matter after former Alberta Health Services CEO Stephen Duckett said queue-jumping was going on when he took over in 2009.

Mr. Duckett said in a speech in Toronto in June that he had to put a stop to politicians having go-to people in health regions who could facilitate faster care for friends, family and supporters.

Mr. Mason was on holidays on Wednesday, but put out a statement reacting to the RCMP's decision.

"I'm disappointed by the news that there has not been enough evidence presented to this point to proceed with a criminal investigation into queue-jumping," he said. "Unless someone steps forward with more specific evidence, we will let the case rest."

Premier Ed Stelmach and Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky have always dismissed Mr. Duckett's allegations.

But they surfaced at a time when the government was under fire from a former member of its own caucus. Raj Sherman, who is also an emergency room doctor, stood in the legislature and alleged doctors were intimidated by senior health staff into keeping quiet about health-care concerns. Dr. Sherman is now running to be leader of the Alberta Liberals.

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The government has rebuffed opposition calls for a public inquiry into health care and instead assigned the province's Health Quality Council to look into intimidation claims.

Outgoing Liberal Leader David Swann said the RCMP decision does not eliminate the need for a public inquiry.

"Indeed, the RCMP decision makes a public inquiry more imperative than ever," Mr. Swann said in a news release.

"A public inquiry is still needed to investigate widespread allegations of government intimidation of health-care professionals. It's still needed to determine if Alberta's far-higher-than-average lung cancer death rates were caused by that very intimidation. It's still needed to determine whether or not there was financial misconduct."

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