Ruling On Private Health Care In British Columbia
What had been a decade long battle and litigated case came to a close in September. Dr. Brian Day, owner of the private clinic Cambie Surgery Centre in Vancouver, unfortunately lost the constitutional challenge of public health care rules.
The Cambie Surgery Centre was legally opened in 1996 by Dr. Day to provide more OR time for surgeons that were unable to get it in the public hospitals. In 2009, he filed action against the B.C. government over sections of the Medicare Protection Act. This act requires doctors to opt out of billing the government for services provided for in the public system if they are also earning income in a private clinic. According to the courts, Dr. Day’s facility has been in violation of this act since 2003. He has maintained that under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, patients who have waited too long in the public system for timely care should have the right to private treatment.
The argument has always been that by allowing a two-tier system, only wealthy patients would be able to pay out of pocket, therefore, allowing them to ‘queue jump’ for faster access. This was thought to be unfair to those who didn’t have the means to pay for a quicker surgery or diagnostic test.
In our experience, the customers that have come to us in search of private facilities have reached their tipping point of not being able to withstand the pain any further. Their frustration levels are through the roof due to a system that was failing them. Very few clients that have come to us over the past few years were weathly. In fact, the majority of them have been middle class or lower income earners who are willing to do anything just to feel better because the system has let them down. In our experience, that argument is not validated.
It’s hard to say what will happen to the Cambie Clinic as Dr. Day did not comment on the ruling. It is suspected he may try to appeal the decision. In the meantime, Canadians will have one less option for access to private health care.