A six-year-old lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Canada’s healthcare system finally began today in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.
Vancouver’s Cambie Surgery Centre and Dr. Brian Day launched the lawsuit against the government, arguing that people should be able to pay privately for medically necessary services, and doctors to charge patients for them.
Protesters and a packed courtroom
Privatization opponents chanted “Don’t pay Doctor Day” on the steps of BC Supreme Court today as lawyers for Doctor Brian Day and his private Cambie Surgery Centre present opening arguments in a packed courtroom with standing room only.
Day’s lawyer argues BC’s ban on private health insurance for medically necessary procedures violates patients constitutional rights by forcing them to wait months or even years in the public system.
Plaintiff's lawyer says #bcgov failure to provide timely care causes real and substantial harm to physical and mental health of residents— Shelby Thom (@ShelbyThom980) September 6, 2016
lawyer says #bcgov "rations" care to meet its budget , results in lengthy waiting lists, causing "significant physical/psychological harm"— Shelby Thom (@ShelbyThom980) September 6, 2016
Lawyer says ban on private health insurance "violates right to life, liberty, security of person under charter of rights and freedoms"— Shelby Thom (@ShelbyThom980) September 6, 2016
“We can look at countries around the world and see that other countries are doing it better. We don’t need to have wait lists in a rich country like Canada.”
Critics say health care won’t be so “universal” with privatization
But critics like David Black say it would undermine the core principle of universal care.
” For those who can afford the kind of insurance and kind of services that Brian Day would like to charge will always go to the front of the line.”
Court heard the Liberal government limits healthcare spending increases to 2.6 per cent annually, despite an aging population.
Plaintiff's lawyer says #BCGov didn't do analysis to determine if 2.6% annual increase in healthcare funding sufficient to meet needs— Shelby Thom (@ShelbyThom980) September 6, 2016
"Politics preventing the government from doing what they know is necessary" lawyer for plaintiff's pushing for private healthcare #bcpoli— Shelby Thom (@ShelbyThom980) September 6, 2016
“Essentially what they are saying is we have a health system that is not delivering care in a timely manner to patients in British Columbia. The government has capped the amount they are going to spend to 2.5 – 2.6 per cent and the health costs are rising more than double that.”
It’s an argument Day’s lawyers hope will bolster their case for the expansion of privatized health care.
The BC Health Coalition is an intervener in the case.
— Shelby Thom (@ShelbyThom980) September 6, 2016
Spokesperson Edith MacHattie says it has the potential to destroy the concept of universal access.
“That’s the challenge with for-profit clinics is only a very small percentage of Canadians can access them because most Canadians can’t afford to pay out of pocket for medical services, so this case is really about profit, huge amounts of profit.”
But Day insists he is fighting for Canadians’ right to a health care system that is free of lengthy waits.
The trial is slated to last four months.