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Landmark Private Health Case Delayed Again

Dr. Brian Day's for-profit clinic lawsuit adjourned until March 2015.

Bob Mackin 26 Aug 2014TheTyee.ca

North Vancouver-based journalist Bob Mackin, a regular contributor to The Tyee, has reported for local, regional, national and international media outlets since he began as a journalist in 1990. Find his Tyee articles here. 

A constitutional challenge of British Columbia's universal medicare system has been delayed until 2015.

Justice Austin Cullen agreed yesterday to the adjournment requested by a lawyer for Dr. Brian Day, co-owner of Cambie Surgeries Corporation, to allow for settlement talks between Day and the provincial government. Day's lawsuit against the Medical Services Commission, Ministry of Health and Attorney General of B.C. was scheduled to go to trial Sept. 8, but has been postponed until March 2, 2015.

The B.C. Nurses' Union, however, is furious with the adjournment, claiming that more patients in B.C. will be illegally billed for necessary healthcare in the meantime. A union news release called the delay an "insult to B.C. patients" and said Day is "making a mockery of the justice system."

"Day used the courts to delay a government audit of his clinic for three years -- and when the audit was finally conducted in 2012, it showed that Cambie Surgery Clinic illegally billed patients almost half a million dollars over a six-month period alone," said the union's vice-president Christine Sorensen in the news release.

A June 2012 Health Ministry audit found Cambie Surgeries Corporation and the related Specialist Referral Clinic (Vancouver) Inc. were guilty of extra billing on a "recurring basis" and had broken the Medicare Protection Act. Day responded to the audit by launching the constitutional challenge.

Day's argument

Day claims that limits on direct billing and extra billing of patients under the Act infringe on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms' sections 7 (life, liberty and security of person) and 15 (equality before law and equal protection and benefit of law). If people have the ability to pay for health care, he argues, they should not have to suffer while waiting in the queue.

Day's fundraising campaign website, CharterHealth.ca, says "over one million Canadians are on a waitlist" and that two of the plaintiffs on the action have died during the six-year delay in the trial.

On the website, Day wrote that the law allows injured workers, RCMP and armed forces members and even federal prisoners to bypass the public health system.

"We will plead with our judge that free Canadians should be granted the same rights as those in jail, and the same constitutional protection under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that was granted to citizens of Quebec (in the 2005 Chaoulli case)," he wrote.

The B.C. Health Coalition, which opposes Day's action, claims that his vision for a U.S.-style, two-tiered medical system would burden Canadians with high insurance premiums and hospital bills, and cause longer wait times at public facilities because doctors and nurses would be attracted to for-profit clinics.  [Tyee]

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