(File photo)

Private clinics win injunction against B.C. law that banned them

Cambie Surgery Centre launched constitutional challenge nearly 10 years ago on private health care

Private clinics embroiled in a decade-long legal battle against the B.C. government have scored a victory, after a judge ordered an injunction against provisions in a law banning private billing for medically necessary care.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Janet Winteringham says in a written ruling released Friday that the constitutionality of the provisions must be determined at an ongoing trial. The decision means the government can’t enforce the provisions until June or pending another court order.

“The plaintiffs have established that there is a serious question to be tried in that … some patients will suffer serious physical and/or psychological harm while waiting for health services (and) some physicians will not provide private-pay medically necessary health services after the (provisions) take effect,” the ruling says.

The Cambie Surgery Centre, another private clinic and several patients launched a constitutional challenge nearly 10 years ago arguing the province doesn’t provide timely medical services, yet residents are prohibited from accessing private health care.

The trial has dragged on for years and Winteringham says in her ruling that she expects it to wrap in April.

READ MORE: B.C. health ministry moves to bar extra billing

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced this spring that starting in October, his government would begin enforcing provisions in the Medicare Protection Act that were first passed by the B.C. Liberals in 2003 but had never been enforced.

The provisions meant that doctors who charged patients for medically necessary procedures would face initial fines of $10,000.

Plaintiffs in the court case swiftly filed an application for an injunction and Winteringham ruled in their favour.

Dix told reporters on Friday that he was disappointed with the ruling.

“It takes away our ability to do what we’re obligated to do and we need to do, which is enforce the law,” he said.

“That said, the court case involved has been going on for 10 years and I’m a very patient person about court cases. I’m quite impatient, though, about improving patient care in B.C. That’s why we’ve proceeded so vigorously to take actions in increasing public surgeries, to reduce public wait times in the public health-care system.”

Health Canada fined the B.C. government $16 million because of illegal extra billing, so the “failure” of the previous government to enforce the act has cost taxpayers, he said. That amount of money could have paid for 55,000 MRIs, he added.

The Canada Health Act prevents private billing for medically necessary health services and continues to be enforced, Dix added.

Dr. Brian Day of the Cambie Surgery Centre could not immediately be reached for comment.

Day has said that his clinic, along with the province’s 56 private surgical facilities and 17 others that provide MRIs, helps to keep waiting lists down in the public system.

He warned in April after Dix announced he would enforce Medical Care Act provisions that the move might force private clinics to close.

“The government is in court denying that wait lists are a problem and denying there’s any harm from wait lists,” he said.

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Province, feds, Wet’suwet’en announce progress in MOU talks

Community engagement process launched to implement northern B.C. First Nation’s rights and title

Province, feds, Wet’suwet’en announce progress in MOU talks

External community engagement process launched to help implement Wet’suwet’en rights and title

Terrace Off Road Cycling Association’s HuB project is close to completion

Additional grant funding means the pump track will be asphalt instead of dirt

Skeena Voices | World-renowned Indigenous artist has Northwest roots

Dempsey Bob looks back on his early years and his formation as an artist

One dead after single-vehicle crash east of Terrace

Cause unknown, RCMP asking public for information

STANDING TALL: Forestry workers meet the challenges, remain hopeful

A look at the forest sector in B.C. – and those hoping for the best – amid mill curtailments

Man suffers serious injuries in bear attack in remote area near Lillooet

It was deemed a defensive attack, no efforts were made to locate the animal

Parkinson SuperWalk goes virtual throughout B.C. due to COVID-19

People encouraged to walk around their neighbourhood, along community trails, through parks, forests

Missed rent payments ‘cause of COVID-19? You have until July 2021 to pay up

Each monthly instalment must be paid on the same date the rent is due

U.S.-Canada pandemic border restrictions extended into September

‘We will continue to keep our communities safe,’ says Public Safety Minister Bill Blair

578 British Columbians currently infected with COVID-19

Seventy-eight new cases confirmed in past 24 hours

WE Charity registers as lobbyist, lays off staff, looking to sell real estate

WE Charity said its financial position has been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic

Conservation seizes fawn illegally kept captive in Vancouver Island home

A Comox Valley resident charged and fined under the Wildlife Act

Pandemic could be driving more parents to get on board with flu shot: study

University of B.C. study gauges willingness for parents to vaccinate children for influenza

Most Read