The cities of Victoria and New Westminster are calling on the provincial government to establish a moratorium on the further expansion of private, for-profit surgical and MRI/CT clinics.
Backed by the B.C. Health Coalition, the two cities have sponsored a resolution set to be considered at the Union of B.C. Municipalities’ annual convention this week.
“Health Minister [Kevin] Falcon must take a leadership role in protecting British Columbians from private investors and insurance companies who are charging illegal user fees and billing patients for health services already covered by Medicare,” BCHC cochair Rachel Tutte stated in a press release today (September 27).
BCHC coordinator Lew MacDonald told the Straight the UBCM ran out of time to deal with the issue last year, so it is posting the resolution as an addendum this time around.
BCHC tenets of universal access and affordability are reflected in the resolution, added MacDonald. The resolution claims the for-profit clinics are a “serious threat to British Columbians’ health and the financial stability of the health care system”.
Aside from a moratorium, the resolution also seeks “an end to public funding for for-profit clinics, including the contracting-out of day surgeries and the provision of health authority contracts to for-profit clinics”.
Also, according to the resolution, the health ministry should “require full accountability and transparency on the part of for-profit clinics by ensuring that they submit to all oversight and regulatory mechanisms currently applied to public facilities operating under the B.C. Hospitals Act”.
In its 31-page report, Eroding Public Medicare: Update on For-Profit Health Care in B.C., the BCHC referred to a national report released in October 2008 by the Ontario Health Coalition.
The Ontario coalition found 130 for-profit health-care clinics across Canada were selling surgeries, MRIs, and access to physician care.
The BCHC report, released this month, asserts that 33 for-profit clinics in B.C. may be charging for publicly insured services or for access to these services.
It states: “Research conducted over three months (June–August 2010) by BCHC staff has revealed that for-profit clinics across the province continue to openly charge patients additional fees to jump the queue for services that are publicly insured.”
BCHC attributed its findings to clinic websites and phone interviews with clinics.
The UBCM convention takes place in Whistler from today to Friday (September 27 to October 1).
The Straight left a message with Falcon’s staff, but the minister did not grant an interview today.