Wednesday September 07, 2016

Should Canadians have access to private surgery clinics?

Demonstrators gather outside Vancouver courthouse to express their concerns over the Dr. Brian Day lawsuit against the B.C. government for banning the purchase of private insurance, Sept 6, 2016.

Demonstrators gather outside Vancouver courthouse to express their concerns over the Dr. Brian Day lawsuit against the B.C. government for banning the purchase of private insurance, Sept 6, 2016. (Christer Waara/CBC)

Listen 18:25

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On Sept. 6, a trial got underway in B.C.'s Supreme Court and the outcome could have consequences for health care across the country.

Six of the eight plaintiffs are patients who allege they suffered while waiting for care in the public system. The plaintiffs argue they have a constitutional right to pay for medically necessary treatment in private surgery centres. But B.C.'s Medicare Protection Act bans the use of private health insurance to pay for medically necessary treatments.  

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Self-styled champion of privatized health care, Dr. Brian Day, launched a lawsuit against B.C.'s Supreme Court to protect patients' access to affordable treatment. His opponents accuse him of trying to gut the core of Canada's medical system. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Dr. Brian Day, one of the plaintiffs in this case tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti that he hopes to improve the health-care system with this lawsuit — a system he calls "a monopoly when it comes to physicians in the hospital."

"We want a public system that's working, and we know and the plaintiffs in this case will demonstrate, that the public system in Canada is performing very poorly."

Dr. Day speaks on behalf of Cambie Surgery Centre, a private clinic where some patients who are on long waiting lists pay for their surgeries.

"We've been in existence for 20 years and the government knowingly is not taking action against us."

Day tells Tremonti that "the government is in violation of the constitution when it outlaws a citizen's right to extricate themselves from the pain and suffering of being on the the wait list."

Day tells Tremonti that "the government is in violation of the constitution when it outlaws a citizen's right to extricate themselves from the pain and suffering of being on the the wait list."

Many people are upset by the idea of doctor's providing private health care outside the public system including Colleen Flood. She is the director of the University of Ottawa's Centre for Health Law, Policy and Ethics.

Flood says that if the case is successful in overturning the B.C. law, potentially every physician that's paid on a fee-for-service basis will be able to charge an extra amount on top of what they receive from the government.

"I think that the possibility of that is a significant and grave threat to medicare, to access as we know it."

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Kristin Nelson and Vancouver network producer, Anne Penman.