The B.C. Supreme court has ruled private healthcare is not a constitutional right if wait times are too long in a years-long case that will likely have implications across Canada’s health-care system.
The 880-page decision was handed down Thursday following a four-year trial, which involved more than 100 witnesses.
Dr. Brian Day began his battle a decade ago against B.C.’s government over whether patients should have the right to pay for private care if the wait in the public system is too long.
Justice John Steeves ruled “I have found that the impugned provisions do not deprive the right to life or liberty of the patient plaintiffs or similarly situated individuals.”
“There is a rational connection between the effects of the impugned provisions and the objectives of preserving and ensuring the sustainability of the universal public healthcare system and ensuring access to necessary medical services is based on need and not the ability to pay.”
Day, an orthopedic surgeon who opened the Cambie Surgery Centre in Vancouver in 1996, has said that everyone should have the right to pay to get care sooner because if they are forced to wait, it can make their health problems potentially worse.
He has been criticized for trying to fundamentally change the country’s health-care system, but Day has argued the restriction violates patients’ constitutional rights.
Following the ruling Thursday, Day responded with a brief statement saying “there will be an urgent appeal.”
Day launched the lawsuit in 2010.
For years, opponents argued that making space for private care flies in the face of the core Canadian value that people should have access to medical care based on need, not on ability to pay.
Dr. Monika Dutt, board member of the Canadian Doctors for Medicare, told Global News Thursday she was very excited to hear about the ruling.
“It’s been a long four years and the fact that now the courts are listening to all of the evidence that was put towards them, have declared a win for public healthcare in this country and emphasized the fact that healthcare should be accessible based on your need and not your ability to pay, it’s wonderful,” she said.
“Essentially everything the plaintiffs wanted were all dismissed.”
The ruling means that every person in Canada will still be able to access healthcare based on their need, said Dutt, adding it’s time to look at making the healthcare system better now that this ruling has come down.
“We’re just taking it as a victory for public healthcare in Canada,” she said.
– with files from The Canadian Press