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

RCMP looking for missing Duncan teen

Dallas Macleod, 18, was last seen on Aug. 10

‘Beauty amongst such tragedy:’ B.C. photographer captures nature’s trifecta

David Luggi’s photo from a beach in Fraser Lake shows Shovel Lake wildfire, Big Dipper and an aurora

Vancouver Island woman to attempt historic swim across Juan de Fuca Strait today

Ultra-marathon swimmer Susan Simmons to attempt to swim from Victoria to Port Angeles and back

Ladysmith Arts Council awarded $20K to develop public art strategy

The Arts Council of Ladysmith and District has been given $20,000 by… Continue reading

VIDEO: Fires break out in scrap piles at Harmac mill

Nanaimo firefighters got blazes under control in early morning hours Saturday

Canadians fear for relatives trapped amid flooding in Indian state of Kerala

More than 800,000people have been displaced by floods and landslides

IndyCar driver Wickens flown to hospital after scary crash

IndyCar said Wickens was awake and alert as he was taken to a hospital

Ex-BCTF president ‘undeterred’ after early release from pipeline protest jail term

Susan Lambert and Order of Canada recipient Jean Swanson released early

Fast food chains look to capitalize on vegetarian, vegan trend with new items

Seven per cent of Canadians consider themselves vegetarians and 2.3 per cent identify as vegans

B.C. swimmer halts journey across Strait of Juan de Fuca after hypothermia sets in

Victoria MS athlete Susan Simmons swam for eight-and-a-half hours in 9 C choppy waters

‘Hard on water:’ Smoke not the only long-range effect of wildfires

The project began more than 10 years ago after southern Alberta’s 2003 Lost Creek fire

B.C. VIEWS: Genuine aboriginal rights are misused and discredited

Camp Cloud one of long line of protests falsely asserting title

Most Read