AHS says deploying undercover agents ‘normal’ practice

Graphic by Melanie Risdon/the Western Standard

The recent story of an Alberta restaurant busted by undercover agents for not adhering to Alberta’s vaccine passport rules has shed light on Alberta Health Services’ (AHS) use of what were referred to as “test shoppers.”

The Granary was ordered closed to indoor dining last Friday after complaints to an AHS executive officer resulted in two undercover officers busting staff for accepting photographs of a dog instead of scanning vaccine passport QR codes.

AHS told the Western Standard these “test shoppers” are public health inspectors and are used to ensure “health requirements are being complied with,” including chief medical officer of Health (CMOH) orders under the Public Health Act.

“AHS may deploy public health inspectors to conduct an inspection in a business or public place without providing identification to the operator, client, or general public,” said an AHS spokesman.

“This method can be used to protect the identity or safety of the public health inspector or to get an accurate representation of products, services or practices provided to the general public.

“The public health inspector may make inquiries to the owner, operator, or employee to test compliance with Public Health Act requirements by purchasing products or services similar to any customer of the business.”

AHS said all inspections are complaint-driven, are in alignment with the Public Health Act and have been part of AHS’ normal operations prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The AHS spokesman said in the case of the Red Deer restaurant, “AHS Environmental Public Health was following up on complaints made by members of the public.”

AHS refused to release details on how many undercover operators they have.

Melanie Risdon is a reporter with the Western Standard

Reporter (Alberta)

Melanie Risdon is an Alberta Reporter for the Western Standard and Alberta Report based in the Calgary Headquarters. She has over 20 years’ experience in media at Global News, Rogers and Corus.

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