VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) – A battle over Canadian health care is brewing in B.C. Supreme Court, where patients filed a class action accusing a group of private health clinics of charging unlawful fees for medical services on the same day the clinics challenged the constitutionality of the province’s Medicare Protection Act.
Patients Mariel Schoof and Carol Welch sued the False Creek Surgical Centre and a host of other private clinics in British Columbia, on behalf of people charged unlawful fees for “materials, consultations, procedures, use of an office, clinic or other place or for any other matter,” covered by provincial health care law.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Independent Medical Clinics Association and a group of private clinics sued B.C.’s Medical Services Commission, its Health Minister and Attorney General. The private-care proponents claim sections of B.C.’s Medicare Protection Act unconstitutionally “restrict or eliminate the opportunity for British Columbia residents to receive the medical care of their choice.”
The clinics’ complaint states: “The waiting periods for medical care in the province are unreasonable and result in patients receiving inadequate care in the public health care system. The unacceptable delays in patient care result in extended suffering, and in some cases death, for patients, worse health outcomes for patients, and increased burden and costs for the public system.”
In addition to wanting sections of the province’s Medicare Protection Act struck down, plaintiff Cambie Surgeries Corp., owned by former Canadian Medical Association president Brian Day, one of Canada’s most vocal proponents of private-care expansion, wants to ward off an audit by the province’s Medical Services Commission. He claims the commission lacks legal authority to conduct the audit because the law giving it the power to investigate legislative violations is unconstitutional.
The patients are represented by Marjorie Brown with the Victory Square Law Office, The clinics by D. Geoffrey Cowper and W. Stanley Martin with Fasken Martineau DuMoulin.