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Wed, January 31, 2007
Auditor general's probe reveals thousands of instances in
province By DARCY HENTON, LEGISLATURE BUREAU
Alberta New Democrats are hailing a local grandmother as a
hero for helping the auditor general uncover nearly 10,000 incidents of
double-dipping by doctors that cost taxpayers $718,785 in one year alone.
Patricia Reddy, 62, who has worked for 16 years at a
Sherwood Park fast-food outlet, said she went to provincial Auditor General
Fred Dunn four years ago after no one else would listen to her complaint.
"I wouldn't give up and I wouldn't go away," Reddy
explained yesterday. "I contacted every minister of health and the College of
Physicians and Surgeons and they refused to deal with the problem."
Dunn discovered that doctors had billed Alberta Health
$718,785 in 2005-06 for services they also billed to the Workers' Compensation
NDP MLA Ray Martin says Alberta Health likely wasted
millions of dollars over the past decade while it was crying about skyrocketing
"Instead of worrying about privatizing (health care) and
all the things they're trying to do, it seems to me the first step is to make
sure the money we're paying out is spent properly," he said.
Health Minister David Hancock seemed unaware of the auditor
general's findings yesterday.
"I'll be very interested in looking at that," he said.
Alberta Health is now working with the WCB to set up an
information-sharing system to prevent similar abuses from occurring, but no
decisions have been made on whether any money will be recovered or whether
charges will be laid.
"It's something we're working on now," said Alberta Health
spokesman Shannon Haggarty.
"They are looking at every individual matter and reviewing
everything. Once that review is done we'll take appropriate steps."
Haggarty said development of the information sharing system
is expected to be completed this spring.
Reddy said her medical problems began in 1996 when she
underwent "a disastrous surgery."
When she went through her file, she discovered everything
from lab tests and X-rays to doctor's treatments were being billed twice.
She estimates the double-billings totalled hundreds of
thousands of dollars in her file alone.
Reddy said she hauled 10 loads of files to the auditor
general's office after former human resources ministers Clint Dunford and Mike
Cardinal and former health minister Iris Evans failed to act. She said she was
banned from Evans's constituency office and "got the brushoff" from the College
of Physicians and Surgeons.
College spokesman Kelly Eby said the disciplinary body
doesn't get involved in doctors' billings.
"We don't have anything to do with this so we're not
following up on it in any way," she said.