Surgery wait lists remain persistently long in B.C. (Black Press files)

B.C. health ministry moves to bar extra billing

Debate continues over role of private clinics, wait lists in B.C.

The B.C. NDP government is moving to crack down on extra billing by private clinics, while spending more to increase publicly funded surgeries to stem growing waiting lists.

Health Minister Adrian Dix put extra money into hip and knee replacement surgeries as well as dental surgery, aiming for an increase of more than 9,000 additional procedures in the public system between now and the spring of 2019. Magnetic resonance imaging scans got another $11 million to diagnose joint conditions for surgery.

Dix has also put private surgery clinics on notice that they will be subject to greater enforcement of extra-billing for medically necessary procedures. As of October 2018, provisions of provincial law enacted in 2003 are to be brought into force, with repayment orders and fines starting at $10,000 and rising for “wrongly charging patients” for medically necessary surgeries as defined by the Canada Health Act.

“The consequences of the failure of the previous government to enforce the law has cost patients millions of dollars,” Dix said when he announced the new enforcement in April. “This has to stop.”

Three clinics have been audited by the B.C. ministry, with six more to come this year. Based on the initial audits, Ottawa reduced B.C.’s health transfer payments by $15.9 million as of March 2018 for violating the Canada Health Act.

The B.C. Health Coalition, a union-run advocacy group, presented symbolic billings for the $15.9 million Tuesday to clinics in Kelowna and Vancouver.

RELATED: Protest staged at Kelowna surgical centre

Meanwhile, the Canadian Institute for Health Information’s latest wait time data found many people waiting beyond the target wait time for hip and knee replacements as well as cataract surgeries in Canada, despite an increase in the number of surgeries since 2015.

International measures consistently show Canada lagging other developed countries in health care performance, behind countries such as the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Germany, where more than a third of hospitals operate on a for-profit basis while treating patients with public health insurance.

A study released Tuesday by the Fraser Institute argues that Ottawa’s interpretation of the Canada Health Act prevents provinces from pursuing European-style reforms that have produced much faster medical service at similar cost.

Critics of the Canadian system say governments ration care by leaving surgical facilities idle to stay within a public budget, but pay extra for faster treatment for RCMP officers, military personnel and workers’ compensation cases at private clinics.

Dr. Brian Day, a former president of the Canadian Medical Association, continues a lengthy lawsuit challenging the government’s ability to bar procedures from his Cambie Surgery Clinic in Vancouver.

Just Posted

Ladysmith children get behind the wheel for Public Works Day

Ladysmith marked Public Works Day on Thursday with over 600 children getting… Continue reading

Ladysmith author honours late sister in new children’s book

Sarah de Vries disappeared from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in 1998

Chemainus ‘Mountain Man’ joins search for Ben Kilmer

Kevin Shiell has been putting his extensive outdoor skills to good use

Search for missing Cowichan man moves towards Hill 60

Volunteer searchers are moving westward

Trans Mountain pipeline: How we got here

A look at the Kinder Morgan expansion, decades in the making

WestJet pilot strike averted as parties agree to mediation

Pilots had warned they could go on strike starting May 19

Out of control wildfire prompts restriction around Allie Lake

One of the first large wildfires of the 2018 season is blazing out of control

Passersby help rescue occupants of home as fire breaks out in Courtenay

Coffee run turns into fire rescue for pair of men

Giant beer tanks arrive in new B.C. home city

Molson Coors tanks finish river journey and move to overland trip in Chilliwack

VIDEO: Pipeline supporters rally across B.C.

Langley event one of five held in B.C.

VIDEO: B.C. woman praises burn fund after boat explosion in 1978

White Rock woman was 16 years old when she was left with second- and third-degree burns

B.C.’s Ryan Craig, Vegas Golden Knights chase history

Local product behind bench for expansion team’s incredible championship run

Most Read