Peter Watts: Public vs private health care

Dr. Brian Day at his Cambie Surgery Center office in Vancouver, B.C. in February 2006.
Dr. Brian Day at his Cambie Surgery Center office in Vancouver, B.C. in February 2006. Bayne Stanley / CP

On Monday morning in Vancouver, a court will reconvene to continue hearing testimony in an eight year old case.

The issue is a Charter challenge being brought by patients whose treatments have been delayed because the public health care system can’t keep pace with demand. The patients want the right to resort to private health care in Canada if the public system comes up short.

The challenge is being led by Dr. Brian Day, a former president of the Canadian Medical Association and CEO of the Cambie Surgeries Clinic in Vancouver. Dr. Day is arguing against the ban on extra billing and for the use of private insurance for publically insured services under the charter.

READ MORE: Vancouver surgeon challenging B.C.’s ban on private insurance

“Make no mistake.  This case is about profit.  Profit for doctors, profit for private clinics and profit for insurance companies,” says James Hutt, interim national director of policy and advocacy for the Canadian Health Coalition.

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Howard Anglin of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, a supporter of Dr. Day, responds.

“This case is about patients having to wait an awful long time to get the care they need to relieve their suffering,” he told me. “Two of the patients who were a part of this challenge when the case started eight years ago have passed away. Others have had to leave the country to get the care they need.”

The same judge who started with this case eight years ago will be presiding on Monday morning. I’m sure the judge is just as ready as the patients to see an end to the trial so that he can get on with the business of considering a verdict. Eight years is a long wait for everyone involved.


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