Medical professionals are a raising concerns that a private mobile health clinic offering medical screening services around B.C. is preying on seniors by offering them expensive tests they don't really need.
The American company Mobile Life Screening has been touring the province offering testing packages which include a wide range of medical tests, including ultrasounds and heart and stroke screening for as much as $498.
Eighty-year-old Vern Schnarr told CBC News he went against his doctor's advice and got a scan, even though he's in good shape.
"She thought it was a waste of time, a waste of money and I went against that advice and went and got it done anyways," said Schnarr.
That makes him one of a growing number of British Columbians paying for private screening tests for potential heart disease or stroke
Company spokesman Randy Spielvogel told CBC News the tests provide vascular screenings to otherwise asymptomatic individuals.
"This is something they typically can't get from their doctors since they would have to have symptoms before these tests are ordered. Unfortunately, many patients have no symptoms prior to a stroke or ruptured abdominal aneurysm," Spielvogel said in an emailed statement.
"We are in no way trying to replace any testing that gets done in a hospital. We are simply a screening program. Testing is performed by ARDMS registered ultrasound technologists and interpreted by B.C. licensed physicians."
Doctors raise concerns
While the screening tests are not medically necessary, they are allowed under B.C.'s Health Act.
Nevertheless they are drawing criticism from those inside the public healthcare system like Reid Johnson, the president of the Health Sciences Association of British Columbia.
"This is going to further put pressure on the public system as the worried want to find out what is going on," said Johnson.
Other doctors agree. Dr. Vanessa Brcic, spokeswoman for Canadian Doctors for Medicare, says the private screening service preys on the elderly.
"That is the most vulnerable population they are targeting. It is people in old age homes, because of their age and health status they are suffering."
She also argues private screening makes people think their doctors aren't giving them the whole truth.
"It almost gives them the message that there is something that they are not getting from your family doctor, that this is something else they need, or it is giving them the false hope that if you just get this test you will live longer."