Dr. Brian Day, Medical Director of the Cambie Surgery Centre, sits for a photograph at his office in Vancouver on Aug. 31, 2016. A lawsuit that begins today in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver has the potential to fundamentally change the way Canadians access health care. Day, who operates a private surgical centre in Vancouver, is challenging B.C.’s ban on Canadians buying private insurance for medically necessary services already covered by medicare. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Private clinics would harm ‘ordinary’ people using public system in B.C.: lawyer

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced in 2018 that the government would begin to fine doctors $10,000

A legal challenge by the owner of a private clinic providing scheduled surgery for affluent patients should be denied because it is based on a flawed constitutional argument, a lawyer for the B.C. government says.

Jonathan Penner said Tuesday that Dr. Brian Day’s bid to have the province strike down provisions of the Medicare Protection Act prohibiting double billing amounts to an “unlawful business model.”

Penner told B.C. Supreme Court Justice John Steeves that Day’s legal team has called the province’s position shocking, adding that’s based on a disregard for patients who can’t afford private care at clinics, such as the Cambie Surgery Centre, opened by Day in 1996.

“In my submission, what truly is shocking, is this complete and utter disregard for the situation of anyone who is not in a position to come up with the funds to pay them to provide rapid surgical services,” he said.

“They seek the privileged, those few privileged British Columbians who require scheduled surgery and have the resources to pay for private care,” Penner said, adding “ordinary” people would have less access to care under a two-tier system Day has proposed.

The frail and elderly, patients with complex conditions, and those with severe mental illness and/or substance-use issues would be particularly disadvantaged because regulating a public-private system that could invite American-style insurers would come at a high cost and take money away from public health care, he said.

READ MORE: B.C. patients wait 41% longer than national average to see a walk-in doctor: Medimap

Wait lists for patients requiring palliative care as well as emergency and urgent services would also increase under such a system because doctors, anesthesiologists and nurses would be lured to clinics allowing them to earn money in both the public and private systems, he said.

Penner suggested physicians should no longer be enrolled in the Medical Services Plan if they choose to work in for-profit clinics.

Day, an orthopedic surgeon, has hinged his decade-long legal battle on arguments around patients having a right to pay for services if wait times in the public system are too long.

He has maintained that four plaintiff patients have been deprived of life, liberty and security under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms after suffering harms from waiting for surgery in the public system before they sought care at his clinic.

Penner called that argument “political theatre” and said Day’s legal team has failed to identify whether any harms the patients may have endured were related to wait times in the public system.

When Day opened his clinic, he said surgeons who worked in hospitals were not getting enough operating-room time and profit was not his motive.

However, the facility has been operating since 2003 in violation of unproclaimed provisions of the provincial Medicare Protection Act.

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced in 2018 that the government would begin to fine doctors $10,000 for a first offence if they charged patients for publicly available services and that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach that allowed private-clinic surgeries and diagnostic tests to continue would no longer be permitted.

Day won an injunction at the B.C. Supreme Court that ordered the government not to enforce that section of the act until his constitutional challenge is dealt with.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC Healthprivate health care

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City moving forward with next phase of OCP vision statement creation

Revelstoke will see a focus group give feedback on proposed amendments

Revelstoke City Council approves virtual building inspections

Service will continue using video calling technology as well as photos

Upcoming contruction planned for Revelstoke Schools

Further upgrades at Columbia Park Elementary and playground review at Arrow Heights Elementary

Cougar caught on camera in Lake Country

A Lake Country resident caught a cougar prowling near their home

COVID-19 death toll reaches 50 in B.C., while daily case count steadies

B.C. records 34 new cases in the province, bringing total active confirmed cases to 462

B.C.’s top doctor details prescription for safe long weekend

Yes, it includes hosting an online cooking show

Reality TV show about bodybuilders still filming in Okanagan amid COVID-19

Five bodybuilders from across the country flew to Kelowna to move into a house for a reality TV show

Serious assault leaves Osoyoos woman in critical condition: RCMP

A 60-year-old Osoyoos woman suffers life threatening injuries following assault inside home

COVID-19: Vernon pet grooming store closed temporarily after symptoms shown

Wet Spot Grooming and Pet Care to announce return Easter Monday

Easter weekend brightened up by Okanagan business

Social distancing might have you down, so one business is spreading cheer

Not all receive COVID-19 aid from federal government

Summerland woman does not qualify for federal assistance during COVID-19 pandemic

Researchers to study whether plasma of recovered patients can treat COVID-19

Plasma is the liquid portion of the blood that contains the antibodies that protect against illness

Most Read