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
// //

Allegations of wrongdoing in Alberta's health-care system have reached a level that deserves an investigation.

They include claims the government covered up the deaths of 250 cancer patients, bullied dissident physicians into leaving the province and failed to address emergency-room overcrowding. The government has glibly dismissed the allegations as political ploys.

Lost amid the political jockeying are two key issues. The first is patient care: Did any of the 250 cancer patients die needlessly and were warnings of overcrowding ignored?

Story continues below advertisement

To find an answer, the government took an appropriate step and called in the Health Quality Council of Alberta - though only after opposition pressure to do so. The independent council will investigate all those cases, call anonymous witnesses, offer immunity from liability and, most importantly, set its own terms of reference. Medical leaders respect the council. Its CEO feels its investigation will be a good first step, and should be trusted.

The council cannot, however, compel anyone to testify. That would require a broad judicial inquiry, sought by an opposition that has changed its tune now that the government has yielded to the initial demands. Justice Minister Verlyn Olson was right to call a judicial inquiry "a blunt tool"; it may eventually be necessary, but would risk giving blanket immunity to those who committed the very acts an investigation is meant to uncover.

The second issue concerns what the council won't look at: accusations of bribery and cover-up. Evidence of such claims should be taken to the police, the Auditor-General or the College of Physicians and Surgeons. Premier Ed Stelmach is correct in insisting that health-care workers have a duty to report such evidence.

The Premier erred, however, in delaying an inquiry and accusing the opposition of playing "political football." Had they not spoken up, there might have been no investigation.

One wild card remains: the Alberta Medical Association, which has remained quiet. Its silence is unusual. If it feels a full inquiry is necessary, the AMA should say so. Otherwise, it's up to the council to set wide terms of reference and provide a non-partisan perspective. It must be left to the medical professionals - a judicial inquiry should be called only if they find strong evidence of wrongdoing.

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