Cambie Ruling a Victory for Public Health Care in Canada

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      In today’s landmark ruling in the Cambie Surgery Centre case, Justice Steeves dealt a strong blow to the efforts of Dr. Brian Day and others to undermine Canada’s publicly-funded health care system. The decade-long legal attack launched by one of the largest for-profit surgical centres in Canada sought to invalidate key sections of the BC Medicare Protection Act (MPA). This decision ensures that access to health care will continue to be based on need and not on ability to pay.

      “This is a historic victory against profit-driven health care in Canada,” said Dr. Danyaal Raza, Chair of Canadian Doctors for Medicare. “We know that single-payer publicly-funded health care is the fairest way to pay for health care, rather than forcing patients to pay out-of-pocket or buy private insurance. This case was never about wait times – it was always about profit.”

      Justice Steeves’ ruling affirmed that access to health care be based on need and not the ability to pay. He wrote that the sections of the MPA challenged in this case are in keeping with the “objectives of preserving and ensuring the sustainability of the universal public healthcare system and ensuring access to necessary medical services is based on need and not the ability to pay.”

      The recent public health emergency caused by COVID-19 has underscored just how important our public health care system is. This decision protects our ability to endure crises and care for one other into the future.

      Comment by Don McCanne of PNHP: This landmark decision has preserved Canada’s single payer health care system, ruling against the establishment of a two-tiered, parallel private system, which basically would allow higher fees in the private system plus an avenue for the wealthy to bypass the public queue.

      One of the more important findings is that relieving the public sector of the private patients would not shorten the public queue, but, in fact, would lengthen it. It would have opened the doors to U.S.-style profit-driven care. Instead, health care will continue to be based on need and not the ability to pay.

      The legal process has been exhaustive – the British Columbia Supreme Court phase of the trial alone began in 2016 – but it is not over. The plaintiff, Brian Day, stated that he plans to appeal, beginning with applying for a stay to prevent his private clinics from being closed.

      Although this case may not be over, the cause for health care justice for all has carved another major victory notch. Laws may be made and interpreted by legislators and judges, but the moral authority in a democracy still belongs to the people, though they have to exercise their right to keep it.

      Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction

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