The Gazette

Want fast care? Slip an MD some cash
The Gazette

When their mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the twin sisters didn’t hesitate for a moment: They chose the surgeon they wanted and slipped him $2,000 in cash to bump their mother to the top of the waiting list. « We wanted to save our mother, » Vivian Green said. « It was cash incentive, to buy our place ahead of everyone else. »

Critics say the practice is illegal and unethical, but several patients who contacted The Gazette say offering envelopes stuffed with thousands of dollars to surgeons has become a way to speed treatment in public hospitals.

One high-ranking physician who works with doctors at several Montreal hospitals told The Gazette that obstetricians often accept cash offered by expectant parents to ensure their doctor attends the delivery, rather than having to depend on whichever doctor is on call. « I’ve learned that it’s current practice. … Everyone within these hospitals knows about it, » he said of the hush-hush payments. « It’s systemic, and it has been so for a long time now. »

The prices? Minimum $2,000 to guarantee that a woman’s doctor will be there for the birth. « And it can go up to $10,000, » he added. For general surgery, the cost runs between $5,000 to $7,000 to jump the wait list into the operating room, he said.