In March, the province published an announcement on their website, promoting Babylon, a health app produced by TELUS.
Jason Kenney, the Alberta premier, tweeted out a link to the article. Tyler Shandro, the minister of health, quote tweeted the premier.
The app has two main components: a chatbot and an online consult with a doctor.
The chatbot is inefficient. I tried it three times for a cough I had last month. I tried to answer the questions it asked me as accurately as I could. The first time, it told me I was having a heart attack. The other two times, it told me I was having an asthma attack. All three times, it told me to go to the ER or call an ambulance.
The province is trying to spin the virtual doctor visit by labelling the doctors as “Alberta registered”. However, in a tweet later, the press secretary for Jason Luan, the associate minister of mental health and addiction, stated that physicians who consult via the app don’t need to live in Alberta, only that they be licensed here.
So, not only are you not consulting with your own family doctor via the app, you may not even be consulting with a doctor in Alberta.
Anyhow, this isn’t the only investment into health that TELUS has made. Just this past January, TELUS announced that they would be donating $1 million toward a mobile health clinic van in Edmonton. The van is operated by the Mustard Seed.
The Mustard Seed is a non-profit that runs a street ministry in 7 locations in Calgary, 5 in Edmonton, 3 in Red Deer, and 1 each in Medicine Hat and Kamloops. The founder of the Mustard Seed is Pat Nixon, the father of Jason and Jeremy Nixon, both of whom are MLAs. In fact, Jason used to be the executive director of the Mustard Seed and even has a pension through them. He’s currently serving in Kenney’s cabinet as the minster of environment and parks, as well as the house leader.
So in January, TELUS makes a $1 million donation to the organization Nixon’s family ran and two months later, members of the Alberta cabinet promote TELUS’s health app.
Update (15 January 2021): Dean Kurpjuweit, the executive director at The Mustard Seed Edmonton reported on Twitter that—despite the implied message of the headline and detail from Edmonton Sun article listed above—the $1 million donation never went to The Mustard Seed. He claims that the donation went entirely to Boyle McCauley Health Centre, which is also the operator of the van, and that the Mustard Seed’s only involvement is that they provide a pick up/drop off location.
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