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Alberta Health investigation into Calgary clinic coming says Premier Danielle Smith

Premier Danielle Smith and Minister of Health Adriana LaGrange responded to reports of a Calgary clinic that had asked patients to switch to a membership fee structure on July 25, following pressure by the public and members of the official opposition.

The clinic had come under fire for allegedly asking patients to join a fee-based membership program, with fees up to $4,800 per year, by the Alberta NDP on Monday.

In emails provided by the official opposition, the clinic’s physician said that services would still be offered to existing patients who did not join a membership program, but those services would be limited to one day per week.

“We recently became aware of a clinic advertising services that are covered by the provincial health care insurance plan and these advertisements suggest these services would be available to a membership following the payment of fees,” wrote Smith and LaGrange in a statement provided to the media.

“Alberta’s government would be extremely concerned if this clinic was charging fees for services that are insured and offering accelerated access to a family physician at the expense of other patients needing to wait longer.

“We have directed Alberta Health to investigate this specific clinic to ensure compliance with all legislation. If any non-compliance with relevant legislation is found, we will take appropriate action.”

The statement said that the government expects all physicians in the province to follow the law, including the Canada Health Act and the Alberta Health Care Insurance Act.

“We are aware that there are physicians and clinics in Alberta that have operated for decades within the parameters of the law to provide services not covered by the provincial health care insurance plan. These services might include non-medically required surgery, nutrition and acupuncture services, medical notes and fertility treatments.”

“The Audit and Compliance Assurance Unit of Alberta Health has evaluated instances where private clinics operate this way, charging membership fees in Alberta. Historically, all evaluations have confirmed that these clinics are operating in compliance with the act.”

Premier Smith said that annually Alberta Health submits a report to Health Canada, and has yet to identify any issues with these clinics.

NDP ramps up pressure on government over clinic

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley issued a further statement on the Calgary clinic on Tuesday morning, following an NDP press conference in the city on Monday.

She said that the membership model is an insidious one that undermines the values of public healthcare.

“Public healthcare means every Albertan gets the care they need, when they need it and where they need it, regardless of the amount of money in their pocket.”

“We cannot have the availability of doctors being dictated by debit cards.”

Notley called on the government to pass legislation that would ban what she called “members-only medicine” in the province.

“We call on [Smith] to commit right now to bringing legislation in the fall to ban ‘Members-Only Medicine.’ Let’s put a stop to this right now. Let’s protect public healthcare.”