bc-091028-bc-surgery

Health Minister Kevin Falcon says he's looking for more efficent patient care, whether it's done by private clinics or public hospitals. ((CBC))

B.C. Health Minister Kevin Falcon must audit private health clinics to ensure they're obeying the Canada Health Act, critics say.

The call comes in the wake of Falcon's announcement Wednesday that the province has earmarked $250 million over the next two years for a so-called "patient-based" funding model for B.C. health facilities.

The new model is intended improve hospital performance and cut surgery wait times by encouraging more efficient treatment of patients.

Falcon confirmed that private clinics would be able to bid for a share of the money.

P.O.V.:

Should private health care clinics be audited? You tell us

NDP health critic Adrian Dix said he first wants the province to determine whether private clinics are charging fees for essential services, which would be a contravention of the federal health act.

The legal battle between the province and the private Cambie Surgery Centre in Vancouver is a case in point, Dix said.

"The Cambie Surgical Centre and its lawyers have admitted they're violating the law and the government refuses to enforce the law," he said.

Auditing clinics made easier

Falcon said he has no fundamental objection to private clinics and doesn't want to get drawn into an argument about public versus private care.

"What I care about is patients getting the service they need as quickly as they can," Falcon said. "Whether that is delivered through a private clinic or delivered through a public hospital is no difference to me as long as the quality standards are there and as long as it's publicly funded."

Dix said the government could now monitor practices at the clinics with fewer legal complications.

A recent court decision allows the province to audit a clinic with a warrant from a justice of the peace and without having to get a court injunction, Dix said.

Falcon said he is still studying the court decision.

With files from the CBC's Jeff Davies