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Vancouver Cambie clinic court case threatens Canada’s universal health care system, speaker tells Nelson audience

Contributor
By Contributor
June 18th, 2017

Most people in BC seem to be unaware of the private health care court case churning along in Vancouver, Rick Turner told his audience in Nelson recently.  But the case frightens him because he says it threatens the health care security of his children and grandchildren.

 

Turner is the provincial co-chair of the BC Health Coalition, a citizens’ advocacy organization. He is touring the province talking about the Dr. Brian Day and Cambie clinic case now on recess, again, until September. He spoke at the Community First Health Care Coop annual meeting on Tuesday, June 13th.

 

The case began back in 2009 Turner says. “We knew Dr. Brian Day at the Cambie was double-billing patients, charging the provincial health system for services provided, and then getting paid by the patients privately as well.  It’s illegal in BC and in Canada but it took a long time to get an audit of the Cambie clinic.  When we finally did get an audit, of just 30 days of clinic operations, it showed nearly half a million dollars in extra billing.”

 

That was the beginning of the court saga that Rick Turner says no matter what the BC Supreme Court ruling is in the end, will surely be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.  The Health Coalition says the Day lawsuit is the biggest, best-funded legal attack on medicare ever and the goal is to end our universal public system and open up American-style, business health care with private insurance.

 

The province charged the Cambie clinic doctors, including Day, under the provincial Health Care Protection Act, but the Clinics’ response was to file a constitutional challenge.  Dr. Day says his rights are violated because he can’t charge as much as he wants for his services, private insurance should be able to pay for those services and Canadians are forced to wait too long in the public system.

 

The courts decided the constitutional challenge had to be settled ahead of the BC charges against the clinics and years later, the case drags on. Meanwhile the clinics continue to grow profits for their doctor owners.  More for-profit clinics are opening as well.

 

Turner says Day is going to lose the case, because all the evidence presented already strongly shows that allowing two-tier access to private payment health care makes waits longer, not shorter. It takes doctors and nurses out of the public system, and over to the for-profit clinics, where they charge for extra tests and generally boost profits.

 

The underlying principle of the Canadian medicare system is that patients are prioritized by need, not by ability to pay, Turner says.  The most urgent cases go first, not the ones who can afford to pay the most.  

 

The Community First Health Care Coop hosted Rick Turner in conjunction with their annual meeting.  The lively audience at the event asked pointed questions about  problems in Canada’s health system, and Turner agreed it needs to be modernized and evolved to an integrated care system more like those in Europe. Teams of care givers including nurses, practitioners, physics, even dieticians and social workers can help patients faster and more appropriately.

 

But people also wanted to know “if this case is so critical, why haven’t we heard about it?” Turner said there has been some media coverage but the complex nature of the issues and the fact the case drags on and on has buried it.  “We had a big rally at the court house with signs on the opening day of the case, and there were headlines, but since then not so much coverage,” he said.

 

Photo Caption: Rick Turner spoke at the Community First Health Care Coop annual meeting on Tuesday, June 13th.

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