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NDP, like Liberals, ignored private health clinic billing: Day

Successive British Columbia governments have allowed private health clinics to do business in the province.

That’s doctor Brian Day’s reaction to a story The Tyee published last week that quoted NDP health critic Adrian Dix saying Liberal leadership candidates and former health ministers Kevin Falcon and George Abbott each failed to seek a warrant so the government could audit Day’s Cambie Surgeries Corp.

“Cambie opened smack in the middle of a 10-year tenure of the NDP,” said Day. “Our billing practices have never changed.”

Day said he has admitted since at least 2000 that his clinic charges extra fees for surgeries on top of what the medical services plan pays, a practice that is illegal in Canada.

“We believed then and believe now that a patient suffering on a wait list has the constitutional right to extricate themselves from pain and suffering imposed by that wait,” said Day. “Apparently, the NDP government felt likewise.”

Day emailed a July, 2000, news release from the Hospital Employees’ Union that criticized the then NDP government for failing to investigate Day’s clinic. It quoted a spokesperson saying, “The government has ample legal tools—including the audit process we’re requesting—to enforce its own legislation. It’s time for the minister to do so.”

The health minister at the time was Mike Farnworth, now an NDP MLA for Port Coquitlam who has said he’s considering running to replace Carole James as leader. Farnworth was health minister only briefly, serving from February to November 2000.

And an October 17, 2000 article from The Province newspaper quoted then Premier Ujjal Dosanjh promising to outlaw private clinics, but not until the public system was strengthened. “It would do us no good to shut down [Dr. Brian] Day’s [Cambie Surgical Centre] clinic if we can’t provide those services elsewhere,” the article quoted him saying.

“Both NDP and BC Liberal governments have been aware of our–and other clinics'–billing activities,” said Day.

Evidence of extra billing at Day’s clinic has been building, said Dix, who was former NDP Premier Glen Clark’s chief of staff from 1996 to 1999. The government’s court case with Day’s clinics cites 30 examples between 2001 and 2007, he said.

“To hang something on a press release in the summer of 2000 is just silliness from Dr. Day,” Dix said. “There’s no hypocrisy. We need to audit him and the facility fees need to stop.”

He added, “Our position’s pretty clear, and it’s the position everyone ought to have. We need to audit this guy.”

A health ministry spokesperson said earlier this month the government was negotiating with lawyers representing Cambie so an audit could be done on a consensual basis.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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