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BC Supreme Court Rules Against Attempt to Undermine Public Healthcare in Canada

Advocates call it a big win for universal healthcare

The British Columbia Supreme Court ruled against an attempt by the CEO of the for-profit Cambie Surgeries Corporation to challenge the basic principles of Canada’s healthcare system, yesterday.

On Thursday, the court dismissed claims by Cambie Surgeries CEO Dr. Brian Day, that regulations stopping physicians from charging patients extra for medically-necessary services violated charter rights to life, liberty and security of the person.

The Tyee reported Day and doctors at his clinic charged the province’s Medical Services Plan for their own services, while the clinic charges patients a facilities fee for use of the operating room and the salaries for nurses. The BC government previously uncovered about $500,000 in unlawful billings and $67,000 in “double-billings” by Day’s clinic over a 30-day period alone. 

Day launched his lawsuit, with the help of the right-wing Canadian Constitution Foundation in 2009. Day further argued patients have a constitutional right, under section 7, to pay for private healthcare to avoid wait times.


Day previously told media “We in Canada will give the same level of services to a wealthy person as to person who isn’t wealthy, and that doesn’t make sense.”

But the court was not convinced.

Justice John J. Steeves wrote:

“I have found that the impugned provisions do not deprive the right to life or liberty of the patient plaintiffs or similarly situated individuals. There is a rational connection between the effects of the impugned provisions and the objectives of preserving and ensuring the sustainability of the universal public healthcare system and ensuring access to necessary medical services is based on need and not the ability to pay.”

If Day’s case had been successful, advocates said, it would have allowed private doctors to offer premium care to patients able to pay — while others were stuck without.

While yesterday’s ruling may be appealed — legal experts, doctors and medicare supporters, say its a win for the principles of universal healthcare.

Edith MacHattie, the co-chair of the BC Health Coalition, told PressProgress “It has been our strong opinion this whole time that this whole challenge has not been about improving wait times or patient rights, but was entirely about improving doctors’ rights to extra bill and to make huge profits. The case has really been about money, and increasing profits for doctors and shareholders.”

This is a very strong ruling in favour for our universal public healthcare system in Canada. The judge dismissed all of the plaintiffs’ concerns and claims,” MacHattie said further. 


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