The Montreux Clinic won a last-minute reprieve to stay open yesterday, the day a ruling by Victoria's medical health officer would have shut down the world-famous centre for eating disorders.
The clinic can continue to treat current patients after an order by Richard Stanwick revoking its licence was stayed pending an appeal of his Dec. 1 decision.
Dr. Stanwick ordered the renowned clinic to close after an emotionally charged public licensing hearing last summer that put a spotlight on eating disorders and the clinic's enigmatic founder, a woman with no medical training who is widely acclaimed as anorexia's angel of mercy.
He found evidence that Montreux breached British Columbia's health laws, employed ill-trained staff, force-fed patients and illegally treated a three-year-old boy for anorexia, a disease that experts testified he never had.
Kersteen Johnston, director of licensing for the provincial health ministry, granted the stay yesterday with a list of strict conditions on the private clinic founded by Peggy Claude-Pierre.
She emphasized her ruling was "impartial" and "in no way a comment on Montreux."
Ms. Johnston ordered the clinic to stop admitting new patients pending the appeal before the Community Care Facility Appeal Board.
A date has not been set.
She also ordered Montreux to hire an interim administrator to be approved by licensing officials, have a nurse on staff and allow a doctor she appoints to examine current patients to ensure their health and safety. If the clinic refuses to comply with the conditions, Ms. Johnston said she would give them 24 hours to shut down.
"I'm too tired to have a comment," Ms. Claude-Pierre said moments after the ruling was issued at a Victoria hotel."We'll do the best we can to honour [the conditions]"
Her husband, David Harris, the clinic's general manager, said of the conditions: "They're not acceptable, but they're livable. We're fighting for justice and human lives."
The order yesterday prevents the centre from admitting patients to its nine-bed residential clinic, which was first licensed in a mansion in 1995, as well as its unlicensed sites across Victoria.
Under British Columbia's Community Care Facility Act, any private clinic with two or more residential patients must be regulated by the province.
Licensing authorities argued that Montreux is using the rule as a loophole to treat other patients living in apartments across the city. Dr. Stanwick first ordered the nine-bed facility to stop taking new patients after investigations over a year ago.
The clinic, which charges up to $1,400 a day, now has an estimated 26 patients, many from out of the country, living in those locations. Licensing officials contend the care of any patients living in residential care overseen by Montreux must be regulated.
Montreux argues that any patients not living in its licensed nine-bed mansion are not subject to B.C. licensing laws.
Licensing officials had opposed the stay on the grounds the clinic has continually failed to comply with regulations despite numerous warnings and two investigations.
"We certainly respect the decision," said Steven Eng, regional chief licensing officer for Victoria's Capital Health Region.
"Licensing will be working to implement the conditions."