British Columbia: Standing Behind Public Health System Despite Flaws

Standing Behind Public Health System Despite Flaws.

The federal government of Canada prides itself on the idea of universal health care, but the reality of the Canadian health care system is that medical options vary, based on provinces and territories. A publicly funded health care system is designed to provide accessible medical and surgical care, but this is not the case for those residents living in British Columbia.

Within a public health care system, any medical issue that impacts quality of life is meant to be treated in a timely manner, intended to reduce impact to quality of life. As the debate rages on to include a broad range of issues, from dental care to mental health care, one of the main issues within this system is surgery.

For more than a decade, surgeons have championed the idea of creating an a system of accessible private health care, designed to provide surgical treatments without having to wait months, or even years, to be seen by a surgeon. Dr. Brian Day, of Cambie Surgical Centre, for example, has not only put forth the idea that long wait times are inhumane, but that they violate the constitutional rights of Canadians to life, liberty, and security of a person under section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Canada Health Act. This was the argument that serves as the basis for the landmark court case brought by Dr. Day in  2020, and the 2022 appeal that followed.

Why Was the Appeal Denied?

The basis for striking down Day’s appeal revolves around the nature of the public health system, as well as a question of perceived business and financial motives. While the appeal was denied, the decision was not an unanimous one. As Day argued that the ability to seek care at a private clinic or surgical centre would work as a parallel to the current system, government officials believed that it would draw medical professionals away from the public system, increasing already extended wait times and causing further distress to waiting patients.

Within the B.C. Supreme Court, it was acknowledged that financial capabilities should not dictate the type of medical care available to residents, but it was also stated that it is unfair for patients to suffer based on government rulings and the decision to focus on public health agencies, alone. With acknowledgement of the benefits of an accompanying system, there is also hope that change is on the way.

What Happens During Wait Times

Across the country, wait times for medical procedures can vary. In Nova Scotia, for example, surgical patients may be left to wait for several weeks, where in British Columbia, patients can expect months, to a year or more, for their procedures. Despite noble intentions, the public health care system is being overrun. This combined with a lack of available medical personnel and reduced availability of surgical centres and equipment, there is no way to keep up with the demand of patients throughout the province.

Day and other surgeons argue that these prolonged wait times are doing increased harm to patients, forcing them to endure pain instead of using their own resources to reduce wait times and receive treatment at an earlier date. In a province where private insurance is an option, it seems counter-intuitive that the Health Agency of Canada is limiting the options for private medical care.

It is proposed that prolonged wait times will result in aggravated conditions, decreased quality of life and may even result in death. Private healthcare practices are proposed, not as a replacement for the current, public system but as an alternative that works alongside it.

Seeking Alternative Options to Long Wait Times 

While medical professionals, such as Dr. Day, will be continuing their fight for access to private healthcare services in Canada, pledging to take the issue to the Canadian Supreme Court, patients are left with few options. For those B.C. residents who refuse to wait for medical and surgical care, medical tourism is becoming an increasingly popular option.

By partnering with reputable facilitators, B.C. residents are beginning to travel in order to seek accessible and timely medical care. From other provinces, to other countries, Canadians are taking their medical care into their own hands.

British Columbia: Standing Behind Public Health System Despite Flaws