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Hi there, Hot Stuff! Where's Stephen Duckett when Alberta really needs him?

Former Alberta Health Services CEO Stephen Duckett

Where's Stephen Duckett when you need him?

Don't you think the crusty Australian, who was the president and CEO of the Alberta Health Services hospital-bureaucracy behemoth before an oatmeal-raisin cookie got the better of him, would have snapped off exactly the right response to yesterday's outrage-of-the-day story about how calls to the AHS Health Link line were being put through to a sex chat service instead?

I mean, really, this might just have been the circumstance in which exactly the right question to ask was, "Can't you see I'm eating my cookie?"

Seriously, people, while it's certainly not a good thing that some folks calling for health care advice were getting a breathy voice that addressed them as "Hot Stuff," Duckett could probably have been counted on to put this teapot tempest into exactly the right perspective with his trademark Aussie mix of withering impatience and disdain.

Oh well, you never know what you've lost till you've lost it!

Meanwhile AHS was tripping over itself yesterday to apologize for the number gone wrong, a recently unblocked phone line on which someone promised callers some "unspeakable fun," instead of just the unspeakable Emergency Room wait times we Albertans have been getting used to.

In fairness, under the circumstances, that's about all any organization could do from a public relations perspective. If you made the predictable jokes, you could and would be rightly accused of not taking serious problems seriously, and this is just the kind of story that sails close enough to the wind to ensure that a publicly paid official would get into trouble even for smirking at the obvious inferences.

Who knows, though? Privately, the AHS brain trust must have been relieved that the voice at the other end of the now-re-blocked 1-900 number or whatever it was wasn't offering a chance to jump the line for an MRI. No, that'd be 1-800-TORY-MLA…

Wait! Don't call that number! Just don't.

In an earlier life as a Cowtown journalist, I once cooked up a great headline with an obvious 1-800 line gag in it. Wouldn't you know that the number not only worked, but went through to a local oil company. Talk about people with no sense of humour!

Well, I'm still not really sorry, and neither should AHS be. It's not their fault, after all, and they got it fixed right smartly.

Meanwhile, CTV's Monte Pythonesque video clip on the topic has the potential to go viral on Youtube while the rest of us are left to wonder just how Duckett would have handled this brouhaha.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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