A male patient is prepped to have a cyst removed from his right knee at the Cambie Surgery Centre, in Vancouver on Wednesday, August 31, 2016. Dr. Brian Day, a self-styled champion of privatized health care, is bringing his fight to British Columbia Supreme Court on Tuesday for the start of a months-long trial he says is about patients’ access to affordable treatment, while his opponents accuse him of trying to gut the core of Canada’s medical system. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A male patient is prepped to have a cyst removed from his right knee at the Cambie Surgery Centre, in Vancouver on Wednesday, August 31, 2016. Dr. Brian Day, a self-styled champion of privatized health care, is bringing his fight to British Columbia Supreme Court on Tuesday for the start of a months-long trial he says is about patients’ access to affordable treatment, while his opponents accuse him of trying to gut the core of Canada’s medical system. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C. health care battle in judge’s hands but expected to land in Canada’s top court

Dr. Brian Day opened the Cambie Surgery Centre in 1996, launched court action against the province in 2009

A judge ended the last day of a nearly four-year trial by hinting that no matter which side wins in the fight over the expansion of private health care in British Columbia, the case will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court of Canada.

“We’ve had some good times and we’ve had some other times,” B.C. Supreme Court Justice John Steeves told lawyers for Canada, British Columbia and those representing a group of plaintiffs led by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Brian Day, who heads Cambie Surgeries Corp.

Steeves said Friday that after he issues his ruling, which could be months away, he’ll “join the rest of the world” in looking forward to the progress of the case.

Day opened the Cambie Surgery Centre in 1996 and launched court action against the B.C. government in 2009 over sections of the Medicare Protection Act. It prohibits doctors from billing the government for work they do in the public system while also earning money from private clinics as well as billing patients or their insurance companies.

The case landed in B.C. Supreme Court in September 2016, with Day maintaining patients have a constitutional right to private surgery or diagnostic tests if they have to wait too long in the public system.

One of his lawyers, Peter Gall, concluded the last of about 200 days of the trial by saying the threshold for when patients should get treatment in private clinics is when they’ve waited beyond wait-time benchmarks established by the province.

“We know there’s a risk when you cross that maximum acceptable wait-time limit,” Gall said, adding the government would be preventing people from protecting their health by not allowing them to seek private treatment.

READ MORE: Decade-long health care battle draws to a close in B.C.

Health ministers across Canada agreed to reduce wait times in 2004 in five key areas — cancer treatment, cardiac care, diagnostic imaging, joint replacement and sight restoration such as cataract surgery. Benchmarks were set the following year for acceptable wait times.

Figures from the Canadian Institute for Health Information show that in 2018, the benchmark of 182 days for knee replacements, for example, was met 59 per cent of the time in B.C., up from 47 per cent two years earlier.

Robert Grant, another lawyer for Day, said government lawyers failed to provide adequate evidence suggesting wait times would increase for the public system if private clinics were allowed to expand and they also didn’t provide conclusive evidence that doctors and nurses would leave for jobs in the private sector.

He said government lawyers’ assertions that Canada’s health-care system would end up like that of the United States aren’t based on reliable data but that any changes brought on by a successful court challenge may be more in line with the United Kingdom, where private surgeries are done in the public system.

However, Dr. Richard Klasa, a board member of Canadian Doctors for Medicare, one of the interveners in the case, said outside court that Canada’s proximity to the U.S. would suggest an American-style system — complete with multiple insurance companies — is more likely to become a reality in this country if the current legal provisions are struck down.

“For-profit health insurers are salivating to be able to get into the Canadian market,” said Klasa, who’s a retired oncologist. ”Basically, they see Canada as a place almost the size and almost the wealth of California, which from their standpoint doesn’t have any health care.”

Klasa, who was also a scientist at the BC Cancer Research Centre, said cancer patients fare much better in Canada compared with either the United States or most of Europe.

“That’s because cancer care is quite comprehensive,” he said, noting drugs are covered for cancer patients under Canada’s universal health-care system.

Day walked out of court on Friday saying he fully expects the case to land at the Supreme Court of Canada because private health care is a right that should be extended beyond B.C.

“Canada is the only country on Earth where a citizen is not allowed to purchase private insurance,” he said. “If you were told it was going to be six weeks before you could get a biopsy you should have the right to have private insurance kick in so you could get that done right away. If there was a cancer growing in any of us, we would want to reserve that right.”

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

North Okanagan business Hytec Kohler set up a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Spallumcheen plant Friday, May 14. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
More than half of eligible adults in Interior Health vaccinated

Over 365,000 vaccine doses have been administered throughout the Interior Health region

The Wooden Spoon’s Kayla Sebastian chats to MLA Roly Russell about how her business has adapted to the pandemic on Friday, May 14. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
MLA Russell hears from downtown business owners

Café and bar owners said they’d had some staffing issues and that they had applied for government grants to help them through the pandemic

New Border Bruins owner Dr. Mark Szynkaruk reps team colours with his young sons and wife Tracey. Photo courtesy of the Grand Forks Border Bruins
KIJHL’s Border Bruins sold to Grand Forks doctor

The league announced the sale Friday, May 14

File photo
Paramedic training returning to Castlegar

Emergency Medical Responder and Primary Care Paramedic training to take place in Castlegar

Emerson Potter, a Grade 3 student at Blewett Elementary, advocated for changes to help him use his wheelchair on the school grounds. He’s seen here with his parents Lindsay Thompson and Keith Potter, and Blewett principal Tim Mushumanski (right). Photo: Tyler Harper
‘Pretty awesome’: Nelson-area student advocates for school to improve outdoor accessibility

Emerson Potter, who lives with cerebral palsy, had trouble moving around Blewett Elementary’s grounds

Conservation Service Officer Kyle Bueckert holds a gold eagle that was revived from acute rodent poisoning Monday, May 12. Photo: Submitted
Grand Forks residents, Conservation Service Officer save poisoned eagle

CSO Kyle Bueckert released the eagle into the wild Thursday, May 13

Chilliwack’s Kile Brown, performing as drag queen Hailey Adler, dances and lip syncs in front of hundreds of people during the inaugural Chilliwack Pride Barbecue at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre on Aug. 24, 2019. Monday, May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of May 16 to 22

International Day Against Homophobia, Talk Like Yoda Day, Sea Monkey Day all coming up this week

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial sex-offender acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Rich Coleman, who was responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, was recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month. (Screenshot)
Coleman questioned over $460K transaction at River Rock during B.C. casinos inquiry

The longtime former Langley MLA was asked about 2011 interview on BC Almanac program

Steven Shearer, <em>Untitled. </em>(Dennis Ha/Courtesy of Steven Shearer)
Vancouver photographer’s billboards taken down after complaints about being ‘disturbing’

‘Context is everything’ when it comes to understanding these images, says visual art professor Catherine Heard

Trina Hunt's remains were found in the Hope area on March 29. Her family is asking the public to think back to the weekend prior to when she went missing. (Photo courtesy of IHIT.)
Cousin of missing woman found in Hope says she won’t have closure until death is solved

Trina Hunt’s family urges Hope residents to check dashcam, photos to help find her killer

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Restrictions will lift once 75% of Canadians get 1 shot and 20% are fully immunized, feds say

Federal health officials are laying out their vision of what life could look like after most Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19

Police are at Ecole Mount Prevost Elementary but the students have been evacuated. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Gardener finds buried explosives, sparking evacuation of Cowichan school

Students removed from school in an ‘abundance of caution’

Most Read