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Appropriate Prioritization of Health Services and 'Professional Courtesy'

July 20 , 2017

From the Office of Dr. Francois Belanger, VP, Quality and Chief Medical Officer, AHS

Dear Colleagues, 

Providing fair, transparent and consistent access to health services based on medical need lies at the heart of the care we provide every day in Alberta Health Services (AHS). Waitlists for some health services are prioritized based on level of urgency in order to ensure patients receive timely access to care.

However, in the course of our work, we may be asked to give priority to requests for care for other healthcare professionals, a practice referred to as ‘professional courtesy.’

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA) has a policy in place to advise on appropriate use of professional courtesy. AHS has the Appropriate Prioritization of Access to Health Services policy in place to prevent improper preferential access to health services. I am providing the following guiding principles for AHS clinicians when facilitating referrals involving other health professionals. The principles are intended to support professional courtesy, when appropriate, and avoid improper preferential access. It is my hope that this will clarify AHS’ expectations with regard to appropriate prioritization of access for health services.

The principles are:

  1. AHS Physicians are expected to adhere to professional conduct standards as defined by their respective colleges or associations. Professional behavior for physicians in Alberta is defined by the CPSA, and all members of the AHS Medical Staff must adhere to the CMA Code of Ethics.
  2. Physicians and other AHS health practitioners can provide care to other healthcare professionals as long as they do not displace a patient on a waiting list.
  3. Normal processes, including scheduling, record keeping and access to AHS facilities should be followed when a patient is also a healthcare professional. Communication between treating physicians and their team or staff should alleviate any perception of inappropriate preferential access.
  4. Normal processes for health professionals seeking care can include physician-to-physician communication or instances where the AMA Physician Family Support Program makes referrals directly to clinics or services on behalf of physicians.

For more information, or if you have questions or concerns, please contact my office.

Thank you, 

Dr. Francois Belanger
Vice President Quality and Chief Medical Officer, AHS

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