Charlottetown activist fears uprooting of health care

Mary Boyd keeping eye on B.C. legal action seeking to ban private health care

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on September 29, 2014
Mary Boyd
Guardian photo by Jim Day

Mary Boyd is keeping a keen eye on a constitutional challenge of British Columbia’s ban on private health care.

She fears if the challenge, launched by former Canadian Medical Association president Dr. Brian Day, is successful, the ramifications will be felt across Canada, including P.E.I.

“As soon as you start undermining health care like that and you get a chain reaction, you’re going to get a two-tier system where there will be extra billing of patients and double dipping,’’ says Boyd, chairwoman of the P.E.I. Health Coalition.

“We have a Canada Health Act that is supposed to protect us from that.’’

A lawsuit against the B.C. government by Day, a Vancouver orthopedic surgeon and co-owner of the Cambie Surgery Centre, was set to go to trial earlier this month.

But lawyers on both sides agreed last week to seek an adjournment so some issues can be settled out of court to improve the speed of the eventual trial.

The B.C. government has said the taxpayer-funded public health-care system is based on the idea that access to medical care is based on need, not the ability to pay.

Boyd would like to see the challenge die before reaching the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

She dismisses Day’s argument that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives people the right to seek faster health care through private facilities if they are unhappy with the public system.

“It has been proven over and over again that a two-tier system actually extends the waiting times ... what happens though is people can jump the queue,’’ says Boyd.

“The poorest in Canada should be able to walk into a doctor’s office or a medical facility and get equal treatment to the richest person in Canada.’’

Boyd says if Day wins this case it will set a precedent that approves unlawful charging of patients for insured health care and give a green light to similar private clinics across the country.

She says Canadians must send a clear message to the B.C. government and other provincial governments that Canada’s public health-care system must be defended and patients need to be protected from for-profit clinics and from unlawful billing.

“The people have to be vocal enough to see that it doesn’t happen,’’ says

Boyd.

“And the polls are always with the people. Massively, Canadians support our public health-care system.’’