(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

RCMP respond to incident at Surrey Memorial Hospital

Police were also on scene at a nearby apartment complex

White Rock RCMP seeking information about Aug. 16 assault

Man in 60s was injured around same time Paul Prestbakmo was stabbed to death

New recovery house rules, increased funding aim to prevent overdose tragedy

Changes ‘speak to issues’ highlighted by death of South Surrey’s Zachary Plett

Police hope to speak with witnesses from fatal 2017 stabbing in Surrey

Wally Rogers was stabbed outside his home near 88th Avenue and 144th Street on July 8, 2017

Surrey RCMP say municipal force approval a ‘challenging time’ for detachment

Province green lit the plan, joint committee for transition to be established

B.C. sockeye returns drop as official calls 2019 ‘extremely challenging’

Federal government says officials are seeing the same thing off Alaska and Washington state

Expanded support to help B.C. youth from care attend university still falling short

Inadequate support, limited awareness and eligibility restrictions some of the existing challenges

Ethnic media aim to help maintain boost in voting by new Canadians

Statistics Canada says new Canadians made up about one-fifth of the voting population in 2016

Cross-examination begins for B.C. dad accused of killing young daughters

Andrew Berry is charged in the deaths of six-year-old Chloe and four-year-old Aubrey in 2017

Dog attacked by river otters, Penticton owner says

Marie Fletcher says her dog was pulled underwater by four river otters in the Penticton Channel

BC SPCA overwhelmed with cats, kittens needing homes

Large number of cruelty investigations, plus normal ‘kitten season’ to blame

Memorial to deceased teen stays in place through Labour Day

Hundreds of tributes have been left at the Walnut Grove skate park

Wife charged in husband’s death in Sechelt

Karin Fischer has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of her husband, Max

Most Read