(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

Just Posted

Alberni Valley firefighters pass the boot for Muscular Dystrophy

Annual fundraiser started in 1967 with Port Alberni Fire Department

Cougars spotted in Sproat Lake neighbourhoods

ACRD director warns residents to keep children, pets close

Who are the Frozen Franklins? Find out at the Alberni Valley Museum

The museum and Echoes in the Ice exhibit are open April 20 during Easter weekend

Former teacher returns to Port Alberni to lead Alzheimer’s Walk

Jory Mitchell celebrates his journey with late wife and her Alzheimer’s diagnosis

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve issues cougar warning at Kennedy Lake

Cougar encounter reported between Tofino and Ucluelet.

‘No answers:’ Canadians react to Sri Lanka bombings that killed hundreds

The co-ordinated bomb attacks killed at least 207 people and injured 450 more on Easter Sunday

RCMP confirm witnesses say body found at Kelowna’s Gyro Beach

Police tape is blocking part of the beach and several RCMP officers are on scene.

B.C. fire department rescues kittens

Enderby homeowner not aware kittens in wood pile near garbage pile fire that got out of hand

QUIZ: How much do you know about Easter?

Take this short quiz and put your knowledge to the test

B.C. VIEWS: NDP’s lawyer show is turning into a horror movie

Court actions pile up over pipelines, car insurance, care aides

Global Affairs warns Canadians in Sri Lanka there could be more attacks

A series of bomb blasts killed at least 207 people and injured hundreds more

Waste not: Kootenay brewery leftovers feed the local food chain

Spent grains from the Trail Beer Refinery are donated to local farmers and growers, none go to waste

Deck collapses in Langley during celebration, 35 people injured

Emergency responders rushed to the Langley home

Most Read