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Injunction sought against private clinic operating in Vancouver

Protesters march outside the Cambie Surgery Centre in Vancouver against the clinic's extra billing practices.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

The B.C. government plans to seek an injunction to stop a Vancouver private clinic from extra billing patients for services covered by the province's health plan.

A July audit by the B.C. Medical Services Commission found the Cambie Surgery Centre and the Specialist Referral Clinic guilty – both run by former Canadian Medical Association president Brian Day – extra-billed patients nearly $500,000, with the commission giving the clinics 30 days to stop the practice.

On Monday, however, it was business as usual at the Cambie Surgery Centre three days after the deadline passed. Ryan Jabs, spokesman for the Health Ministry, said the province will seek an injunction to enforce the order.

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Health-care advocates protested at the Cambie clinic, saying the government has been slow to respond to extra-billing.

"By not enforcing the law, the provincial and federal governments are essentially endorsing the support of a two-tiered health-care system in Canada," said Vanessa Brcic, an executive board member for Canadian Doctors for Medicare.

She was one of more than 20 people who gathered outside the clinic, carrying signs and chanting, "Universal health care. Not more wealth care."

Dr. Brcic said that at the Cambie centre, patients with bigger bank accounts can receive expedited treatment, which creates longer waiting times in the public system when private patients return for follow-ups.

Dr. Day said he has the public on his side.

"No one will ever convince me that in a free and democratic society it's in any way unethical, or immoral or unlawful [for] a citizen in a free country to spend their own after-tax dollars on health care on their own health," he said.

Most Canadian physicians and the public support a private-public health-care system, he said, which alleviates public waiting times. About 53 per cent of Canadians are in favour of a split system, according to a recent Ipsos survey.

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Dr. Day said he welcomes the injunction hearing.

Peter Gall, Dr. Day's lawyer for his constitutional challenge, said he expects a judge to rule against the injunction but if it is granted, his client will appeal the decision.

Mr. Gall said he expects the injunction hearing will take place in late September or early October.

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