Court outlaws profit-making B.C. clinic

Medicare activist Edith MacHattie

DR. BRIAN DAY BENT THE RULES TO MAKE MONEY. The B.C. Supreme Court has ordered him to stop.

Day opened a private medical care clinic in Vancouver in 1995. He offered those who could pay him a way to jump the Medicare queue.

Day is the clinic’s medical director, and one of its 40-plus shareholders. The clinic has 50 full- and part-time nurses and 125 doctors performing operations and other procedures for up to 5,000 patients a year. It may be the busiest private hospital in Canada.

A tidy side hustle

Day is called “Dr. Profit” by pro-Medicare activists. He was found guilty of overcharging clinic patients almost half a million dollars in a 30-day period.  

The B.C. Medicare Protection Act prohibits doctors from “extra-billing”: from billing the government for work they do in the public system, and then collect extra money from services they offer in private clinics.

Day countered the ruling against him with a Charter challenge in 2009, alleging that two provisions in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including the right to life, liberty and security of the person, shelter him from the B.C. law.

The B.C. Supreme Court ruled against him on September 10.

Justice John J. Steeves dismissed both Charter claims, noting that B.C.’s Medicare Protection Act is focused on “ensuring access to necessary medical services is based on need and not the ability to pay.”

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province welcomes the decision. “The ruling emphasizes the strength and the importance of public heath care, which is a cornerstone of our identity in British Columbia,” he said.

Private care will increase wait times

Edith MacHattie, co-chair of the B.C. Health Coalition coalition, said she started crying once the decision was released. “[The case] has been the most serious attack against our public health-care system that we’ve ever seen,” she told CBC News.

“This is a victory for everyone who uses health care in Canada,” she said. “Even though the attack had been launched in BC, it took aim at the very heart of the Canada Health Act and every provincial health care insurance plan.”

Dr. Danyaal Raza, Chair of Canadian Doctors for Medicare, another intervenor in the case, says that allowing private pay-for-care clinics will only increase wait times.

“We don’t have an unlimited supply of doctors and nurses, so if you take some of them out of the public system, and reserve them just for small number of people that can pay to get care at the front of the line, then there’s fewer folks left over to care for more people waiting in the public health care system,” he said.

Health care not for venture capitalists

“Health care in Canada is a right, not a market commodity,” said CUPE National President Mark Hancock. “This is a decisive win for universal public health care in Canada.

“Our health care system doesn’t need more venture capitalists, it needs more funding, beds, and health care workers to help improve quality of care and reduce wait times and backlogs.”


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