EDMONTON, AB (April 16, 2013): A former health executive’s taxpayer-funded private treatment at the Mayo Clinic in the United States is proof that the ongoing health expenses and queue jumping scandals are linked, the Wildrose Official Opposition said today.
Yesterday, Wildrose released expense claims obtained through a Freedom of Information request showing former Capital Health Chief Operating Officer Michelle Lahey expensed over $7,000 at the Mayo Clinic to Alberta taxpayers. Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk refuted the documents, saying the expenses “probably are legitimate.” Today, it was confirmed that Lahey’s bills were in fact for health care treatment. Wildrose Official Opposition Leader Danielle Smith says there is now irrefutable evidence that Alberta taxpayers have paid for senior health executives to jump the queue and skirt long wait times in Alberta’s public system by receiving private care. “This isn’t just another Alberta health expenses scandal, like the dozens we have seen already. This is much worse,” Smith said. “This concerns the very principles of fairness and universality that our public health care system is built on. It is a serious betrayal of those principles and a slap in the face to the thousands of taxpayers who paid for this special treatment while also anxiously awaiting necessary care.” Yesterday in the Legislature, Lukaszuk downplayed the significance of the Lahey Mayo Clinic expense claims, calling them “imaginary” and calling the suggestion that taxpayers paid for private care for a health executive “irresponsible and wrong.” Wildrose Health Critic Heather Forsyth said the Lahey expenses undermine the public’s confidence in their health care system, namely the principle that access to care should be equal for all. “This kind of special treatment for VIPs and government insiders is absolutely wrong,” Forsyth said. “Albertans need to have confidence that their public health care system is working for everybody and that tax dollars are improving the system for all. Instead, we’re finding out that these dollars are reimbursing executives who leave the public system for private care.”