British Columbia

NDP leader accuses B.C. Liberals of having private health care agenda

NDP Leader John Horgan introduced privatization into the election debate Tuesday, announcing his party would build new much-needed public medical facilities, while claiming the Liberals would create more private hospitals in the province.

But Liberal leader maintains her party will continue to fight for robust public health care

B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan waded into the debate surrounding privatized health care on Tuesday, outlining NDP plans for public medical facilities. (B.C. NDP)

NDP Leader John Horgan introduced privatization into the election debate Tuesday, announcing his party would build new much-needed public medical facilities, while claiming the Liberals would create more private hospitals in the province.

Horgan made the announcement near Burnaby Hospital, a facility which is is in the midst of a $13.8-million 10-year redevelopment plan.

But Horgan claims there's a behind-the-scenes push toward private-pay health care that is gaining steam.

"Christy Clark wants to let the rich skip the line, while the rest of us wait months or years for treatment. It's wrong, it's offensive," said Horgan.

"Neglect has resulted in emergency room overcrowding and hallway medicine at facilities like Burnaby Hospital. She's failed to fix the services people count on."

His comments come days after Port Moody-Coquitlam Liberal candidate Linda Reimer spoke out during an April 21 all-candidates debate, saying she has used private health care herself and supports "the privatization to a certain extent of our health-care system."

A report outlining the overcrowding and ageing infrastructure at Burnaby General Hospital in 2012 sparked a government initiatve to redevelop the facility.

"We expected Premier Clark to clarify the party's position following Reimer's remarks, but she did little to assure voters that her government will not expand health care privatization if re-elected," said Edith MacHattie, the co-chair of the B.C. Health Coalition.

In response Clark shot back: "We already have that in British Columbia! [Reimer] is talking about what already exists in B.C. and provinces all across Canada today."

The Liberal Leader says her party will continue to fight for a robust, healthy public health-care system.

In fact, the province has been fighting Dr. Brian Day's Cambie Surgery Centre in B.C. Supreme court — a case that revolves around charging client-patients for medical services.

The legal battle has been adjourned until at least September 2017. Day says his team is running out of money to keep up the fight.

A sign with the word "emergency" written on it
The B.C. Liberals have been in discussions with the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons about allowing multiple day-stays at private clinics where day surgeries are already performed. (CBC)

A recent Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives' analysis points to signs of a shift toward more private services and an openness to a hybrid private-public system, common in Europe and the U.K.

The B.C. Health Coalition's MacHattie says Terry Lake, B.C.'s health minister at the time the election writ was issued, has confirmed the government is in discussions with the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons to allow multiple day-stays in private clinics in the province.

The college confirmed Monday discussions continue but noted that this would take advanced notice and planning to accredit a non-hospital facility to act more like a hospital. Bylaws, standards and operational plans would need to be developed — all of which, the college says, would take time.

With files from Farrah Merali