(Black Press Media file)

(Black Press Media file)

Key to keeping doctors from private health care is a strong B.C. Medicare: UBC prof

Quebec’s example could provide a guideline for B.C.

The battle over a private surgery centre in Vancouver could have big implications for physicians choosing whether to practice in the public or private system.

That’s according to Michael Law, a professor at the University of B.C.’s school of population and public health. Law partnered with University of Victoria researchers to look at how Quebec doctors left the public health care system after two policy changes. The first was a 2005 Supreme Court of Canada ruling on Chaoulli v. Quebec that found the province’s banning of private insurance for publicly insured medical services violated the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. The second was a regulatory clampdown forbidding double billing that was implemented by Quebec’s government in 2017.

In B.C., the issue of double billing is likely headed to the province’s top court, after the Cambie Surgery Centre lost a bid to double-bill patients at the B.C. Supreme Court. Double billing is when a health-care provide bills the patient and the government for the service. Owner Dr. Brian Day had claimed the B.C. government was denying patients the right to timely care by not letting them go private.

Day lost the ruling, but will likely appeal the decision.

Law said the decision of that ruling could have longstanding implications for B.C.

“British Columbia does not allow physicians to practice in both the public sector and private sector, you either have to be in or out,” he said. “One of the sections in the Medicare Act that was under challenge was that section.”

Law said that his team looked at Quebec doctors because unlike B.C., that province publishes a monthly list of physicians who have opted out of the public sector. In B.C. he said, while private surgery clinics are popular, it’s impossible to tell how many doctors are leaving the public system.

In Quebec, the number of doctors leaving is significant. For specialists, researchers found 23 doctors opted out in 1994, compared to 150 in 2019 – a 552 per cent increase.

For family doctors, the rise in those leaving the public system was even higher. In 1994, nine family doctors had opted out of the public system. By 2019, that number had grown to 347 – a spike of 3,755 per cent. If that trend is mirrored in B.C., where family doctors are already often lacking, the province could have a problem on its hands.

But Law said that regardless of the results of the Cambie Surgery Centre’s appeal, there are steps the province can take to make sure doctors stay in the public system.

“Don’t give people a reason to want to go to the private sector,” he said. “You need to maintain a level of quality and accessibility in the public sector that doesn’t make people feel the necessity of going private and paying to get things done.”

READ MORE: B.C. Supreme Court rules against private healthcare centre, sides with province


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Healthcare

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Prince Rupert’s Bobby Brown celebrated his 95th birthday milestone on March 5 with family across the country in an online celebration. (Photo: supplied by Jodi Brown)
Prince Rupert man celebrates 95th birthday milestone online

Five generations come together COVID-19 style in Prince Rupert to say “Happy Birthday”

Main door at Cranes Crossing, Prince Rupert’s homeless shelter, on March 5. Northern Health issued a public notice of potential exposure occurring at the shelter between Feb. 22 and 24. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
COVID-19 Public Exposure Notice issued for Prince Rupert’s homeless shelter

Northern Health said possible exposure between Feb. 22 and 24

Air Canada cancelled flights to Prince Regional Airport on Jan. 23, 2021 due to loss of ridership during COVID-19. An Air Canada Rouge takes off from Montreal in March 20, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)
BC Liberals call for immediate action and support for B.C. airports

Prince Rupert Regional Airport and others across the province struggle with COVID-19 effects

Paul Williams rector of St. Andrews Cathedral in Prince Rupert sits in front of the 95-year-old pipe organ on March 5. The church has put out a community call for volunteers to play the instrument to keep it fresh and operational. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
St. Andrews Cathedral pipe organ needs players to make it sing

Prince Rupert volunteers who want to practice their playing skills are welcome

Alex Campbell, Velna Nelson, Beatrice Robinson and Ellen Mason take part in the Sm’algyax Word App and website launched by School District 52 on March 1. (Photo: Supplied by Roberta Edzera)
Prince Rupert SD 52 launches new Sm’algyax word app and website

Database for new language resources stems back more than 30 years

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

During a press event on March 6, Const. Alex Berube, media relations officer for the West Shore RCMP, addressed a deadly shooting that occurred in Metchosin the night before. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: One man shot dead on Vancouver Island in ‘targeted incident’

Highway 14 reopens following multi-hour closure for investigation

Personal protective equipment is seen in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
$16.9 million invested to improve worker safety, strengthen B.C.’s food supply chain

Money to be used for social distancing, personal protective equipment, cleaning, and air circulation

More than ever before, as pandemic conditions persist, the threat of data breaches and cyberattacks continues to grow, according to SFU professor Michael Parent. (Pixabay photo)
SFU expert unveils 5 ways the COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed cybersecurity

Recognizing these changes is the first in a series of steps to mitigate them once the pandemic ends, and before the next: Michael Parent

Most Read