Court blocks B.C. Nurses' Union attempt to fight extra billing and facility fees

The British Columbia Nurses' Union has been denied "public interest standing" in a legal battle against  the Attorney General of British Columbia and the Medical Services Commission.

In a March 18 decision, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Kelleher ruled that the union  "has the capacity" to bring  forward its judicial-review application challenging extra billing by doctors.

However, Kelleher ruled that there exists another "reasonable and effective manner in which the issue may be brought before the court". This would be  through litigation filed  an individual who felt the direct effects  of the policy of the Medical Services Commission.

Some have speculated that B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell has a secret agenda to allow greater access for private insurers, and that this is supported by operators of private medical clinics.

The government and the Medical Services Commission unsuccessfully argued that the  BCNU could only bring court actions in connection with the Labour Relations Code.

Kelleher concluded that the  BCNU was  acting "well within what a democratic trade union normally does in our society". However, he concluded that a private litigant  could provide "a more precise factual scenario than a public interest litigant".

Kelleher cited several cases to support his ruling.

The union claims that Section 17 of the Medicare Protection Act prohibits user charges or extra billing.  

The union alleges  that the Medical Services Commission is not following the law by permitting doctors in private medical clinics to impose user charges on patients. The union refers to this as "double dipping", according to Kelleher's ruling.

As well, the union alleges that facility fees charged by the companies to the government are also illegal under the Medicare Protection Act.