A male patient is prepped to have a cyst removed from his right knee at the Cambie Surgery Centre, in Vancouver on Wednesday, August 31, 2016. Dr. Brian Day, a self-styled champion of privatized health care, is bringing his fight to British Columbia Supreme Court on Tuesday for the start of a months-long trial he says is about patients’ access to affordable treatment, while his opponents accuse him of trying to gut the core of Canada’s medical system. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A male patient is prepped to have a cyst removed from his right knee at the Cambie Surgery Centre, in Vancouver on Wednesday, August 31, 2016. Dr. Brian Day, a self-styled champion of privatized health care, is bringing his fight to British Columbia Supreme Court on Tuesday for the start of a months-long trial he says is about patients’ access to affordable treatment, while his opponents accuse him of trying to gut the core of Canada’s medical system. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Closing arguments begin in B.C. case launched in 2009 over private health care

Dr. Day said he illegally opened the Cambie Surgery Centre in 1996 in order to create more operating-room time

A framed iconic photo in Dr. Brian Day’s office shows Muhammad Ali raising a triumphant gloved hand as he stares down at his opponent splayed on the mat after a first-round boxing knockout less than two minutes into the fight.

Day, 72, will step into a courtroom on Monday as final arguments begin in the culmination of a battle he launched a decade ago against the British Columbia government based on a constitutional challenge saying patients have a right to pay for private care if the public system leaves them waiting too long.

“I stayed up to listen to the fight on the radio,” Day said of the legendary spectacle between Ali and Sonny Liston in 1965, adding he stopped boxing in his native Liverpool, England, at age 11 as his peers began outgrowing him.

He took on the provincial government, and in effect the “myth” of Canada’s single-tier universal health-care system, in 2009 and the case landed in B.C. Supreme Court in 2016 with support from four patients.

Other countries, including Switzerland, Germany and England, that offer a parallel public-private system of care have managed to shorten wait lists, he said.

“We’re the only jurisdiction on Earth where private health insurance for medically necessary care is unlawful, unless you’re an injured worker,” Day said after doing knee surgery on a 61-year-old patient from Alberta, the first of his eight procedures that day, some involving people whose costs would be covered by B.C.’s workers’ compensation agency.

That’s unfair to children and others needing surgery because they must choose to either pay for private clinics or suffer through delays in public hospitals, he said.

“One of the witnesses in our trial was a welder who had previously undergone surgery for a knee ligament injury on one knee and came back a few years later with the same injury in the other knee but he hurt it in sports on one knee and got an MRI quickly and on the other side was told it was going to be 18 months.”

However, government lawyers say in written closing arguments that Day’s claims of the plaintiff patients having been deprived of life, liberty and security of the person under Section 7 of the charter are problematic because those protections apply to issues of justice, not health care.

Rather than a constitutional challenge, the government alleges Day’s case amounts to ”political theatre” and an attempt to force change on the health-care system for the financial benefit of doctors who earn more money from wealthy patients going to private clinics.

The province also says Day’s lawyers have failed to establish that patients any suffer harm by waiting for services.

READ MORE: B.C. health ministry moves to bar extra billing

Day said he illegally opened the Cambie Surgery Centre in 1996 in order to create more operating-room time for surgeons who couldn’t get it in public hospitals and profit was never a motive.

In 2018, Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the government would begin to fine doctors $10,000 for a first offence and $20,000 for a second violation of its Medicare Protection Act if they charged patients for publicly available services. He said the ’Don’t ask, don’t tell’ approach, which allowed private-clinic surgeries and diagnostic tests to continue because provisions of the law had not been enforced, would come to an end.

However, Day successfully sought an injunction that prompted B.C. Supreme Court Justice Janet Winteringham to order the government not to enforce sections of the act until their validity could be established at trial, which is expected to conclude Dec. 6 with the trial judge.

Days before the start of closing arguments, the surgeon said the injunction order was a positive sign he would prevail in his court battle because Winteringham recognized patients would “suffer serious physical and/or psychological harm while waiting for health services” if they couldn’t turn to private clinics.

READ MORE: B.C. is using taxpayer money to outlast plaintiffs in health-care trial: critic

Winteringham’s words apply generally to the “nonsense” of an inadequate universal health-care system that doesn’t meet patients’ needs, said Day, a former president of the Canadian Medical Association.

“It’s unconstitutional. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot promise health care, then not deliver it in a timely way, then outlaw the patients’ ability to access it independently,” he said.

“I’m confident that the evidence is in that major harm is being done to patients by the health system as it operates.”

The federal government is an intervener in his trial, along with Canadian Doctors for Medicare, the B.C. Nurses’ Union and the B.C. Health Coalition.

Dr. Danyaal Raza, board chair of Canadian Doctors for Medicare, said the delivery of health care is being reorganized around the country and some changes are based on a model in Richmond, B.C., where a hospital reduced wait times for hip and knee surgeries through efficiencies such as booking surgeries centrally.

“It’s a model that Alberta has also pursued and now in Ontario we’re learning from the experience of B.C. and Alberta and we’re learning from that experience how to approach back pain,” the family doctor said from Toronto.

READ MORE: Private clinics win injunction against B.C. law that banned them

“I think the pace of change needs to speed up,” he said. “If we go down the road that Dr. Day wants to take us, wait lists are not going to get better, they’re going to get worse. So, we really have to decide when we make changes to the health-care system, do we want changes that are going to benefit everyone or do we want to make changes that prioritize those who can pay?”

He said a parallel public-private system has not worked in some countries, including Australia and Scotland.

Day said his case has so far cost $6 million, with much of the money raised by the Canadian Constitution Foundation, but the province has refused to divulge how much it has paid in taxpayers’ dollars since 2009.

Derek From, a lawyer with the foundation, said the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner ordered the government to release the amount at the foundation’s request but the government won an appeal of the decision in court though his group is in the process of filing an appeal of that ruling.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Patricia Taylor and Debra Strut at the Salvation Army on Friday, Nov. 27, handing out winter boots and gift bags to those in need. Taylor says they'll be back until all her supplies are gone.(Mandy Moraes photo)
Parksville residents distribute gifts and winter boots in Salvation Army parking lot

‘I’m hoping to open the eyes of the community to realize that everybody has value’

Qualicum Beach resident Harold MacDougall won $75,000 off a Casino Royale II Scratch & Win ticket, purchased the ticket at Qualicum Foods on Memorial Avenue. (BCLC photo)
Qualicum Beach man $75K richer thanks to scratch-and-win ticket windfall

MacDougall plans on trips to Cape Breton and Scotland

Regional District of Nanaimo will be receiving $1.17 million from the B.C. government in COVID-19 safe restart grant money. (News Bulletin file)
Regional District of Nanaimo directors getting started on budgeting decisions

Proposed tax requisitions for 2021 range from 7.3-per cent increase to 2.2-per cent decrease

David Darmadi, owner of Kalvas - The Log House restaurant, is offering a sweet initiative for SOS. Guests can bring in a new, unwrapped gift or financial donation for SOS, and receive a free dessert. (Lissa Alexander photo)
Sweet initiative to support Parksville Qualicum Beach residents

‘A lot of our guests are very generous and they want to help out’

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement forecasting windy weather Sunday and Monday. (News Bulletin file photo)
More windy weather on the way for Vancouver Island

Environment Canada issues special weather statement for Victoria, east coast of Island, north Island

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

A small crash in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash in Comox Valley waters Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Most Read