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

Fraser Valley fire departments form ‘strike teams’ to combat wildfires

Boston Bar, Chilliwack River Valley and Popkum departments form strike teams to fight wildfires

RCMP nab prolific car thief in Agassiz after month-long search

A province-wide warrant was issued for Brian Robert Stephan in June for a litany of offences

Take-home naloxone may be replacing 911 calls in parts of Lower Mainland

Naloxone kits handed out up 29% over 2017, ambulance calls and emergency visits down 22-24%, deaths hold steady

New riverfront path under development

A path suitable for mobility scooters, pedestrians, cyclists and baby strollers

UPDATE: Anonymous tip leads DFO night patrol to Fraser River poachers

Charges pending after poachers arrested at night while fishing, 48 sockeye, harbour seal seized

First responders, police march in funeral procession for Fredericton officers

Hundreds of officials marched in the parade, which included massed band, several police motorcycles

Canadians react to death of former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan at age 80

Nobel Peace Prize-winning former UN leader died early Saturday following a short illness

44 drownings so far this year in B.C.

Lifesaving Society urging caution to prevent deaths while on lakes, oceans and in pools

Some of B.C.’s air quality levels worse than Jodhpur, India

Okanagan, northern B.C. seeing some of the worst air quality globally

VIDEO: Ground crews keep a close eye on largest B.C. wildfire

Originally estimated to be 79,192 hectares, officials said more accurate mapping shows smaller size

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

Canadians believe in immigration but concerned about asylum seekers: study

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada paid for study to understand Canadian attitudes

These are the highest-paid actresses of 2018

In its list released this week Forbes said all 10 earned a total of $186 million before tax

VIDEO: World of Magic coming to Vancouver

Seven magic shows will appear at the Vancouver Playhouse from September 7 to 9

Most Read