MONTREAL—Health Minister Rejean Hebert didn't mince words.

“I think it's unacceptable and I don't want it to be repeated,” said Hebert, responding for the Marois government after it was revealed that a 31-year-old Kuwaiti woman had heart surgery at the McGill University Health Centre.

A year ago, the Kuwaiti government paid the hospital $200,000 to perform the surgery, speed the woman’s recovery at the ICU and then in a private room.

The health minister says, if a hospital can make room for surgery for a foreign patient, then it should make room for Quebecers on waiting lists.

“We have waiting lists for surgery and it's unacceptable to use the facilities in the Quebec health care system to let people from very rich country to have a special access to these facilities,” said Hebert.

The Quebec Federation of Medical Specialists agrees.

“It's quite amazing to see that there was a bed available for someone in December, a period where we all know that emergency wards, including all those at the MUHC, are overcrowded,” said Dr. Gaetan Barrette.

Defending its actions, the MUHC says the surgery was performed on compassionate grounds.

“We are involved in a project in Kuwait, or some of the doctors are, to help train their physicians and this patient came in through, we became aware of that through the doctor who was training there and he just realized that this could not be done in Kuwait and her life could be saved by bringing her here,” said Ian Popple, speaking for the hospital network.

Popple says no Quebecer in need was denied care. He says the staff worked on their own time and the beds the patient occupied were closed for budgetary reasons.

“The funding from the Kuwait government allowed us to open up beds that weren't currently funded by the Quebec government,” said Popple.

This patients' rights advocate says he has no objections to what the MUHC did, so long as two basic criteria were met.

“That the budget, the public money, is not affected and that no patient is being left aside because of it,” said patients’ rights advocate Paul Brunet.

The question for some remains: If a foreign patient can pay for speedy care in a public institution can a Quebecer do the same? The answer is no.

“This was a one-off case. It was on compassionate grounds and we're not looking at doing any more of these cases,” said Popple.

The health minister has told the MUHC he doesn't want to see the practice repeated, adding that if there's humanitarian surgery that's needed, he wants to be informed so he can authorize it.