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McQUARRIE - Is it about profit or patients?

September 21, 2016 4:59 A.M.

THIS COLUMN is about Dr. Brian Day’s challenge to our healthcare system, which is currently being heard in B.C. Supreme Court and is a somewhat difficult one for me to write about.

Difficult in that for sometime, I’ve been sitting on the fence on this one.  And, in the spirit of openness, difficult in that my years of skiing have finally taken their toll on my knees and I’ve become a patient in the “system.”

As a patient, I’ve experienced the frustration and discomfort that comes with the long waits and delays. Fortunately for me the required procedure is very straightforward and quick. Yet each time it takes more than a year to work through the infamous knee surgery system.

Dr. Day argues that under Section 7 of the Canadian Charter, I should have the right to buy that knee surgery.  He states that under Section 7, I have the right to life, liberty and security of person.  He goes on to suggest it is unconstitutional for the B.C. Government to deny me the ability to receive and for him to provide and charge a separate fee for the needed surgery.

At first glance and despite the huge expense, I was starting to side with his argument.  If I’m in pain and have difficulty walking then I want it fixed, I want it fixed now and as Dr. Day suggests, it is my constitutional right!

Peter Gall, the lawyer for Day’s Cambie Surgeries Corp., points out: “Because the public system has failed to protect the health of all British Columbians, the government cannot constitutionally prohibit British Columbians from accessing private health care in the province.”

But this whole Charter argument was bothering me, as it seemed to be turned inside out.  The more I thought about it the more it felt like our Charter of Rights was being used as an excuse to give Dr. Day and his clinic the right to bill patients and less about providing timely healthcare for patients.

In my opinion, a more valid argument for invoking Section 7 would be a claim that seeks a remedy from government and not from a private sector provider. This takes the case back to the ‘good for all’ as opposed to the ‘good for those who can afford it’.

As Dr. Brar of the Canadian Doctors for Medicare stated, “This case is about profit and not patients.”

If our rights are being abused — and I believe they are — then it is up to us to hold the province accountable and ask the courts to secure a remedy that benefits all of us.  It should not be an argument about Charter protection for private billing.

Premier Christy Clark’s rather wishy-washy response of explaining that both sides have compelling arguments is concerning as well.

She should instead be worried about the possibility of our healthcare system being torn apart on her watch.  This is a prospect no government or individual should want to be remembered for and a Premier, who doesn’t seem to understand the consequences of inaction, disturbs me.  At least that is, the consequences to those unable to afford private healthcare.

Finally, I wonder why surgical centres such as Day’s Cambie Centre can’t figure out a way to work within the system in the same way X-Ray clinics do?  The latter are privately owned, bill under MSP fee schedules and seem to do well.  With the Cambie Surgery Centre, is it there is no profit or just not enough profit if they were to find a means of working within the system? I suspect it’s the not enough profit.

Since most surgical centres already do contract work for the hospitals, should we not consider the X-Ray model and simply formalize and expand that existing roll? Wait lists would shrink. Clinics would offer doctors, who would also keep their hospital OR slot, more time to do what they have spent years training for. Access remains universal. And patients are taken care of in a timely fashion.

If Dr. Day’s case was truly built on ensuring and enshrining our Charter rights and protections while providing excellent healthcare, then an argument to benefit us all would make more sense.

Bill McQuarrie is a Kamloops entrepreneur. He can be contacted at billmcquarrie@gmail.com. He tweets @mcrider1.

Robert George Barriere says:
September 29, 2016 12:38am

It is of course all about money.Someday the Hippocratic Oath will be a memory.Why a Law School at TRU? We already have too many lawyers and their profession is it seems doing a great job of destroying our justice system.What we need is more good Canadian medical schools,not more lawyers.We,the great unwashed,understand almost none of all this,but suffer as a result .We are told we live in the best country in the world. Well,something is haywire and it,s time it was fixed. How? Good question.

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Grouchy 1 says:
September 21, 2016 09:40am

Dr Day is trying to win the right to bill the medical plan for work done, while charging patients at the same time for the same work he just billed the province for. This case is about his greed only, not a benefit for patients. Hopefully the courts will see that, and not allow him to have his cake, and eat it too.

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Sean Lane says:
September 21, 2016 09:37am

That line of reasoning works in a perfect world. The cost for surgery has got to be far more than an x-ray. There is only so much money in the health care system. Europe deals with this situation with a mix of private and public health care. These models should be examined to find the best mix. Your knees are from skiing. My knees are from work. When the time comes, I will be waiting and the resulting health problems from the inactivity of waiting will be prohibitive. I will probably have to go south of the border and pay there just as my in-laws did. How does that make sense? Hockey players don't wait, politicians don't wait....why should I?

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peter says:
September 21, 2016 08:34am

Your dilemma is caused by cognitive dissonance. Your "belief" in medicare as a morally superior system is in conflict with the reality of your need for triaged services.

Those services are doled out a rate that Province calculates will not bankrupt the system. Every single item and service used in surgery is arguably orders of magnitude more expensive than necessary, because of regulatory excess. That excess is lobbied for by the those who presently benefit from it...unions, doctors, medical device and drug manufacturers and most alarmingly administrators who milk the system for personal gain.

The system extant is the product of need and greed. The fix is obviously less regulation and more innovation. The chances of the status quo sacrificing their piece of the pie for better services to those who pay is slim to none.

What were once vocations are now professions. Those who graduate with their degrees and diplomas have a real need to pay back the huge student loans they are forced to take to finish their schooling.

The answers are elusive if you approach the problem with a pre-ordained belief that that which demonstrably doesn't work just needs to be tweaked to start firing on all cylinders.

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Sean McGuinness says:
September 21, 2016 07:52am

I agree -- the "right to life" argument in the Charter should only be applied in the case of public health care. Day has twisted this by essentially arguing that the "right to life" clause should apply to people who want to buy healthcare. Having the "right" to buy healthcare if you're rich, is not one of those fundamental rights. This was not the intent of the charter.

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Pierre Filisetti says:
September 21, 2016 06:25am

Of course Dr. Day's case ain't about altruism, that much should be crystal clear even to the most hardened right-winger there is. As for the premier's position, that should be clear also.
As for knee pain, I can share a story or two and I can tell you for sure a doctor's opinion is not always the best opinion.

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