Canada’s highest court will not hear an appeal from a Vancouver-based physician who has been challenging the health-care system over access to private care.
The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision Thursday ends Dr. Brian Day’s 14-year legal battle to allow patients access to private care when the public system isn’t able to offer timely care.
Day, owner of the Cambie Surgery Center in Vancouver, claimed that prolonged wait times for medical procedures violated two Charter rights, including the right to life, liberty and security of the person.
“In a way, it’s a very sad day for Canadians,” Day told CBC News after the decision was released Thursday morning.
“Wealthy Canadians have always gone down to the United States [for care], but where do middle income and lower income Canadians go? The answer is they’re not allowed to go anywhere. They stay and suffer and die on wait lists.”
The Medicare Protection Act prohibits doctors from billing the government for work they do in the public system while also earning money from private clinics as well as billing patients or their insurance companies.
This day argued that these sections are unconstitutional because they prevent patients from accessing private medical treatment when the public system sometimes cannot provide timely care, and argued patients have a constitutional right to pay for private care when wait times in the public system are too long.
Experts have long argued against private health care in Canada, citing concerns that a two-tier system would favor patients who are wealthy enough to pay for “queue-jumping” private insurance, as well as doctors who could bill both the public and private systems.
In a written statement, BC Health Minister Adrian Dix said he was pleased with the latest decision.
“Today’s decision affirms our ongoing efforts to preserve and uphold our public health-care system and confirms the legal arguments heard at the BC Supreme Court and the BC Court of Appeal,” Dix said.
“It sends a strong message that our nation’s highest court supports the principles of universal health care, where access to medical care is determined by a patient’s needs, not their ability to pay their way to the front of the line.”
Day opened the Cambie Surgery Center in 1996 and launched court action against the BC government in 2009 over the aforementioned sections of the Medicare Protection Act.
His cases in both the Supreme Court of BC and the BC Court of Appeal were dismissed, the latter in July last year. He filed an application with the Supreme Court of Canada to leave to appeal last September.