Montreal group vows to keep monitoring medical clinics under new billing ban

A new online registry launched Sunday by the "fight for health" committee at the Pointe St-Charles Community Clinic invites members of the public to anonymously report medical clinics that are still charging for services despite Jan. 26 ban.

Public registry will keep track of illegal charges, changing fees under Quebec ban introduced on Jan. 26

Stéphane Dufoy of the Pointe St-Charles Community Clinic holds a summary of findings collected through its first database project on medical clinic user fees. (CBC)

The elimination of extra fees billed to patients of medical clinics for procedures covered by Quebec's health care plan doesn't mean the fight against them is over, say organizers at a Montreal community health clinic.

To that end, the "fight for health" committee at the Pointe St-Charles Community Clinic (CCPSC) launched a new online registry Sunday where members of the public can anonymously report clinics that are still charging for services covered by the ban, which went into effect on Jan. 26.

The online registry replaces an earlier version that was launched in early 2015 to collect evidence in the CCPCS's joint campaign with other public health care advocates against the fees, which they argued were illegal and a violation of Canada's Health Act.

Fees a barrier to medical care

The Pointe St-Charles Community Clinic serves one of Montreal's poorest neighbourhoods and organizers there said user fees prevented people on fixed incomes from accessing appropriate medical care.

The original registry compiled 500 complaints of what the clinic said was illegal and abusive billing.

"We're very happy the fees have been abolished. It was the product of pressure from numerous groups, including the CCPSC for nearly 10 years," clinic community organizer Stéphane Dufoy said Sunday.

"We're satisfied, but we have to be vigilant."

New fees?

Dufoy encouraged members of the public who have been charged fees for medical services starting Jan. 26 to visit the online registry and file a testimony.

"They can even call us and we'll document the file and denounce any clinics that are in contravention of the new rules," he said.

One of the clinic's chief concerns, Dufoy said, is identifying new fees that some private or public clinics may introduce.

"We're worried that certain medical clinics will find new ways of charging patients," he said.

Some fees remain in place for administrative services that aren't covered by Quebec's health insurance board, the Régie de l'assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ).

Fees to fill out medical forms are still in place, for example, and clinics will also be allowed to charge for the transport of biological samples to a lab, to a maximum of $15 for a blood sample and $5 for all other kinds of samples.