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

Province announces $100-million grant funding for Northwest communities

The Northern Capital and Planning Grant will go to four regional districts and 22 municipalities

All Native Basketball Tournament Day 5: Recap

Highlights and results from day 5 at the All Native Tournament

All Native Basketball Tournament Day 6: Preview

Look ahead to all the action scheduled for Feb. 16 at the All Native Tournament

All Native Basketball Tournament Day 4: Recap

Results and highlights from day 4 at the 2019 All Native Basketball Tournament

All Native Basketball Tournament Day 3: Recap

Highlights from around Day 3 of the tournament

Mermen calendar targets ‘toxic masculinity,’ raises big money for charities

Newfoundland and Labrador Beard and Moustache Club gave a cheque for more than $202,000 to Violence Prevention NL

Make sure measles shots up to date, Public Health Agency says

Measles causes high fever, coughing, sneezing and a widespread painful rash

Super snow moon set to rise across B.C.

It is the biggest and brightest moon of the year

‘Our entire municipality is heartbroken’: Seven children die in Halifax house fire

A man and woman remained in hospital Tuesday afternoon, the man with life-threatening injuries

Minister says plans to fight poverty, climate change, focus of B.C. budget

The NDP said in its throne speech last week that affordability will be the hallmark of its initiatives

UPDATED: ‘Violent’ B.C. man back in custody after Alberta arrest

Prince George man with ties to Vernon was being sought by police

After a week away, SNC-Lavalin questions await MPs returning to Parliament

Two have resigned already: Jody Wilson-Raybould was veterans affairs minister and Gerald Butts was Trudeau’s principal secretary

‘How did we get here?’: B.C. mom of transplant recipient worries about measles outbreaks

Addison, 7, cannot get a live vaccine because she has a heart transplant

Poverty coalition has high hopes for B.C. poverty reduction strategy

Funding allocation expected to be released with 2019 budget

Most Read