Protesters rallied at a private clinic in Vancouver which has been accused by the province of extra billing patients for publicly insured medical services.
Around 30 people held placards and chanted on the sidewalk outside the Cambie Surgery Centre at Ash Street and West 13th Avenue today (August 20).
The protest came after a 30-day deadline had passed for the Cambie Surgery Centre and the Specialist Referral Clinic, a related private facility, to comply with an order to stop extra billing.
On July 18, the B.C. Medical Services Commission released an audit that found more than 200 cases where patients at the clinics had been billed for services covered under the Medical Services Plan. The charges totalled nearly $500,000.
The commission told the clinics they had one month to stop extra billing—which is prohibited under provincial law—or it would seek a court injunction.
Brian Day, a doctor and founder of the two clinics, has reportedly argued patients have the right to pay for medical services to avoid waiting lists. He also launched a legal challenge of B.C. laws following the release of the audit.
Vanessa Brcic, a family doctor with the group Canadian Doctors for Medicare, called on the government to enforce the law in relation to the clinics.
“We are here requesting that an injunction be filed and that the law be enforced in this case,” Brcic told reporters at today’s rally.
“By not enforcing the law, the provincial and federal governments are essentially endorsing the support of a two-tiered healthcare system in Canada and that’s why this is such a significant issue,” she said.
During the rally, protesters chanted “Universal healthcare, not more wealth-care!” They also held signs that read: “Care based on need not income”, and “Enforce the Canada Health Act”.
Brcic said research shows waiting times for patients increase when people are able to pay private clinics to receive services sooner than those who rely on the public system.
“If you want to siphon doctors and nurses out of the system to deliver care in places like this that are exclusive to only the wealthiest few, then everyone else is going to be waiting longer,” she said.
Bob Woollard, a doctor with Canadian Doctors for Medicare, also spoke out at the protest.
“We have concerns about the evolution of a second tier of care, that is a two-tiered system—one for the wealthy and one for the less-wealthy,” he told reporters.