BC Liberals Penalized for Health Act Violations
The BC Health Coalition is
calling for an immediate investigation of private surgical clinic
billing practices after learning the BC government was penalized, in
the form of fines, by the federal government for two separate
violations of the Canada Health Act in March.
And while the fines will
likely have a small impact on the provincial treasury, health coalition
coordinator Terrie Hendrickson says the news has huge implications for
BC patients and predicts that these violations represent just the tip
of the iceberg.
"Under this government's
nose, patients are being charged by private companies for publicly
insured health services," says Hendrickson. "And by tolerating this
practice, our government is putting us on a fast track to two-tier
Opposition across the
province is growing to the government’s latest move to privatize the
public health care system. Despite repeated pre-election promises to
increase public health care funding and steer clear from private
for-profit medical facilities, the Liberals have pursued a widespread
contracting-out and downsizing measures, including the recent awarding
of surgeries to private clinics.
Health Minister Colin Hansen said, “We
want to make sure we are getting the best value and we want to make sure
patients in B.C. improved access to the
care they need," he said. The coalition says the complaints and result
show that is not happening under the
“Our health services minister
insists that (he) can privatize thousands of surgical procedures
without violating the Canada Health Act," adds Hendrickson. "But even
now, it's clear that the province is unable or unwilling to police
Just last week, in response
to allegations in the press that a now defunct private cataract clinic
in North Vancouver had allowed queue jumping, health services minister
Colin Hansen said he needed a patient to come forward.
"It's not acceptable for the
provincial government to sit back and wait for complaints to come in,"
says Hendrickson. "We need Victoria and its health authorities to
proactively monitor private clinics and enforce the law.
Meanwhile, the barrage of
facility closures and layoffs continues, despite growing complaints of
declining service quality and a failure by the government to realize
any cost savings.
Hendrickson says Hansen must
take immediate steps to investigate the billing practices of private
clinics. The health coalition also wants Hansen to release details of
these Medicare violations and ban the private clinics involved from
bidding on any surgical contracts from public bodies including health
authorities, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia and the
Workers' Compensation Board.
"Without such action, the
health services minister is just paying lip service to the principles
of Medicare," said Hendrickson.
The group is also calling for
an immediate moratorium on health privatization.