Press Release: Restrictions on access to health services provided by Cambie violate the constitutional rights of BC patients

Press Release: Restrictions on access to health services provided by Cambie violate the constitutional rights of BC patients

Today the Medical Services Commission announced what we have always acknowledged – that the Cambie Surgery Centre has not been complying with the restrictions on health care in this province.

Indeed, we told the Government that the audit was unnecessary because we conceded that we are not in compliance with the provincial legislation.

From the inception of our clinic, over 16 years ago, we have argued that the restrictions on the access to the health services we provide violate the constitutional rights of medical patients in B.C.

In the 2005 Chaoulli decision, the Supreme Court of Canada held that Quebec’s restrictions on access to health care were unconstitutional. We have commenced a constitutional challenge in B.C. to ensure that B.C. citizens and patients have the same access as Quebec patients to the timely health care that the Supreme Court held was constitutionally required in Quebec.

An amended notice of claim in this lawsuit is about to be filed which includes individual plaintiffs whose health situation required immediate attention that was only available through our Cambie Surgery Centre.

It is of crucial importance that B.C.’s health care laws be interpreted by the courts in accordance with the constitution, to allow B.C. citizens, such as the individual plaintiffs in our case, to have access to our services when the monopoly public health system is not able to deal with their health problems in the timeframe they require.

Done properly, opening up our health system to the greater availability to health care will benefit everyone. As it stands now, certain people in certain situations legally can and regularly do access health care from our clinic. For example, preferred beneficiaries such as federal politicians, judges, RCMP members and federal prisoners are excluded from the provincial restrictions on access to health care. As well, employees in B.C. who are injured or become ill at work are sent for treatment at our clinic through Work Safe BC because it is accepted that it is in both the worker’s and the employer’s best interests to get the worker back to work as soon as possible. However, if employees are injured or become ill off the job, they cannot access health care from our clinic to get back to work as soon as possible through their employer’s short term or long term disability plans. This distinction is not just arbitrary, it is discriminatory. The intent of our lawsuit is to provide timely health care to all B.C. residents and not just the preferred beneficiaries designated in the province’s health care laws.

Waiting for necessary medical treatment in the monopoly government healthcare system imposes significant financial, emotional, and physical health burden on British Columbians and their families. The Cambie Surgery Centre serves to reduce long waiting lists in the public healthcare system, increased access to innovative technologies, and permit greater choice for the delivery of healthcare services. Canada is the only developed country in the world that denies its citizens that choice.

We have launched our constitutional challenge to improve access to health care in BC. In our respectful view, this case is of enormous importance to the wellbeing of the citizens of the province. We also want to assure everyone that we have no intention of ceasing operations while the case is pending. That would be contrary to the public interest.