Flames given preferential treatment

Updated: November 4, 2009, 6:34 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

EDMONTON, Alberta -- A senior staff member for Alberta Health Services has been fired for giving the Calgary Flames swine flu shots while thousands of people waited in line for the vaccine last week.

The board, which reports directly to the Alberta government, won't name who was dismissed Wednesday and said more people might be punished for their roles.

"I am deeply offended that this circumstance has occurred," Ken Hughes, chairman of Alberta Health Services, said in a news release. "The decision to allow preferential access to the Flames and their families was a serious error in judgment."

Hughes said the "most senior staff member involved" was dismissed.

Flames president Ken King said Tuesday the players and their families received their shots on Friday at a private location. He said they believed they had gone through proper channels at Alberta Health Services, the agency that administers health services for the province.

King said they felt the shots were a priority for the players because of their extensive cross-border travel and the close-contact physical nature of their sport. He also said they didn't want to cause a commotion by having the players stand in line at a public clinic.

However, he didn't say why that rationale would apply to Flames management and players' families.

Public outrage over the revelations showed that the Canadians' love for a hockey team, even when it includes such franchise stars as forward Jarome Iginla and goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, only goes so far during a pandemic.

The health agency said it was continuing its investigation and more disciplinary action could be taken.

The flap over the Flames topped a chaotic several days for mass vaccination in the province of 3.5 million residents that started with hours-long lines at makeshift clinics and ended with the abrupt halt to H1N1 shots when far more people than expected showed up for them.

The Alberta authority said it would restart shots for higher-risk people such as young children and pregnant women, but it will keep vaccine from the general public for now.

Other sports teams in Canada, including the Edmonton Oilers, the NBA's Toronto Raptors and the CFL's Edmonton Eskimos, have said they did not seek or get preferential H1N1 vaccines for their players.

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.

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