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Posts Tagged "government"

7Oct

Daphne Bramham: Elizabeth May looking ahead to how Greens might influence a minority government

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Elizabeth May is surprisingly cheerful for an environmental crusader worried that the civilization may be on the brink of collapse by the time her 43-year-old daughter reaches May’s own age of 65.

It’s because after being a party of one for eight years in Parliament and only graduating to a party of two earlier this year, the Green party leader says this federal election — her fourth — feels different.

Support is coming in unexpected places, she says forcing her to run something closer to a truly national campaign and visit ridings that weren’t previously on her itinerary.

The polls reflect some of that. May has the highest approval rating of the leaders on the CBC’s Leader Meter.

Her party’s support has nearly doubled in the past year to close to 10 per cent, which would translate into anywhere from one to eight seats with four seats being the consensus prediction.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5XFIb8P_Do?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&autohide=2&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&wmode=transparent

But the Greens have been here before. They polled at close to 10 per cent in 2010 long before the prospect of a dystopian future drove tens of thousands of Canadians into the streets last month.

Many of those marchers, like the climate strike’s founder Greta Thunberg, are too young to vote and are too young to be surveyed about voting intentions in Canada’s upcoming federal election.

As a politician, May laughingly told The Vancouver Sun’s editorial board that she should be talking about measuring for new curtains in the prime minister’s resident in anticipation of moving in.

But she’s a pragmatist and what is within reach in 2019 is holding the balance of power — or the balance of responsibility, as she describes it — in a minority government.

Unlike the B.C. Green party, May would make no deals to support either the Conservatives or the Liberals.

She’d use her few seats as a club to force the prime minister to either bend policies — especially on the environment — to something closer to the Greens’ platform or she’d bring down the government.

For many, the Greens’ plan is scary, requiring radical and fundamental changes to retool the Canadian economy, its social programs and even individuals’ expectations and habits.

May admits that.

By 2030, her plan would cut carbon emissions by 60 per cent from the 2005 levels, limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above global pre-industrial averages. Within a decade, a Green Canada would be fully powered by renewable energy.

Quoting an October 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, May says it’s all do-able and that the needed technology already exists to avoid going above 1.5 degrees C.

Citing a National Research Council projection, the Greens’ platform says four million jobs would be created in energy efficiency retrofits compared with the 62,000 Canadians working in oil and gas in 2018.

But May admits some will disappear and talks about a “just transition” for workers that would include more education spending, bridging of some workers to early retirement and a guaranteed livable income, which would replace and build on disability payments, social assistance and income supplements.

“It’s a tough choice and I’m not saying that people will never sacrifice,” May said. “But we’re talking about whether our children are able to have anything above a deteriorating human civilization all around them …

“A functioning human civilization is at risk within the lifetime of my daughter to be able to have basic elements of a functioning human society.”

But if the Greens hold the balance of power in a post-Oct. 21 Parliament, it’s not just the environmental agenda that may influence new legislation.

May frequently references the 1960s minority government of Liberal Prime Minister Lester Pearson that with support of the NDP (then named the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation), which resulted in universal health care, the Canada Pension Plan, unemployment insurance and the flag (which, bizarrely, was the most controversial).

So beyond an improved climate plan, what do the Greens want? Proportional representation rather than a first-past-the-post voting system has always been high on its list both federally and provincially. The Liberals promised it in 2015 and reneged. A Liberal minority government might be willing to rethink that.

The Greens’ platform calls for decriminalization of drug possession and access to “a safe, screened supply.” The Conservatives have resolutely said no, while the Liberals have said no for now.

May is actively supporting Wilson-Raybould’s bid to win re-election as an Independent in Vancouver-Granville. Wilson-Raybould was forced out of the Liberal Party after she publicly accused Justin Trudeau and his staff of inappropriately pressuring her to stop the prosecution of engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.

The only reason there is a Green candidate in that riding is because running the party’s constitution requires one in every federal riding.

But would May be willing to bring down the new government — Liberal or Conservative — if it agreed to negotiate a deferred prosecution agreement?

May could play a pivotal role in forging a better response to the climate emergency and even help return Canada to a leadership role if she can muster the kind of patience, diplomacy and intelligence that NDP leader Tommy Douglas exercised in the 1960s.

And if she can’t? Well, we’ll have another election sooner rather than later and by then, at least some of those climate-striking kids will have reached voting age.

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23Sep

Province funds local government poverty reduction strategies

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Local governments are being supported in developing local poverty reduction strategies to lift people up, break the cycle of poverty and build a better B.C. for everyone.

As part of TogetherBC, British Columbia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, the Province is providing $5 million to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) for the Poverty Reduction Planning & Action program. Interested communities can apply for funding to support local initiatives and plans that will help B.C. reduce the overall poverty rate by 25% and the child poverty rate by 50% by 2024.

“Local governments see the impacts of poverty in their communities from the front lines,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “These grants are an opportunity for our government to work with municipalities and community organizations in identifying their most pressing local issues and developing local solutions in the fight against poverty.”

New projects will be funded that focus on one or more of TogetherBC’s priority actions areas, including:

  • housing;
  • families;
  • children and youth;
  • education and training;
  • employment;
  • income; and
  • social supports.

Projects must involve key community partners, such as community-based poverty reduction organizations, people with lived experience of poverty, businesses, local First Nations or Indigenous organizations.

“Local governments have long advocated for a comprehensive approach to address the reality of poverty in B.C. communities,” said Coun. Murry Krause, UBCM past president. “This new funding program helps to advance TogetherBC’s priorities and will strengthen local co-ordination and implementation of poverty reduction plans.”

In June 2019, the Province announced $6 million for the Social Planning and Research Council of B.C. to fund Homelessness Community Action Grants for local projects aimed at reducing and preventing homelessness provincewide. These two granting streams are part of the Province’s proactive approach to making homelessness brief and rare, and helping people break the cycle of poverty.

Delivering on the Poverty Reduction Strategy is a shared priority between government and the BC Green Party caucus, and is part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.

Quick Facts:

  • Applications for the Poverty Reduction & Action program will be open until Feb. 28, 2020.
  • Municipalities and regional districts can partner and apply with other local governments for regional grants.
  • The program includes two streams of funding:
    • up to $25,000 to develop or update poverty reduction assessments or plans; and
    • up to $50,000 to undertake local poverty reduction projects.
    • For regional applications, the funding maximum for both streams is $150,000.
  • British Columbia has one of the highest rates of poverty in the country and has for decades. B.C. also has the second-highest overall poverty rate in Canada.

Learn More:

To apply for Poverty Reduction Planning & Action Program grants:
https://www.ubcm.ca/EN/main/funding/lgps.html

To apply for a Homelessness Community Action Grant, visit:
https://www.sparc.bc.ca/resources/homelessness-community-action-grants/

TogetherBC, British Columbia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/about-the-bc-government/poverty-reduction-strategy

5Sep

B.C. government expands biosimilar drug program to Crohn’s, colitis patients

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https://vancouversun.com/


B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix in a file photo.


Francis Georgian / PNG

The British Columbia government says it’s expanding its substitute drug program to include 1,700 patients with diseases such as Crohn’s and colitis.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says biosimilars, which are cheaper alternatives to name-brand drugs, have worked well in other countries and the province will be saving about $96.6 million to be put back into health care over three years.

Biosimilars are highly similar versions of bioengineered drugs known as biologics, and there are 17 such products approved for sale in Canada.

Bioengineered medicine is the single biggest expense for public drug plans; in 2018, B.C. spent $125 million to treat chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis and Crohn’s disease.

In January, the province made a three-year, $105-million investment to help low-income British Columbians get access to the drugs.

The initial program announced in May saw over 20,000 British Columbians move their prescription from the biologic to biosimilar drugs.

25Jul

B.C. government seeks public feedback on reducing plastic waste

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Don’t forget to reduce, reuse, recycle and reply with your feedback.

The B.C. government is asking the public to weigh in on how the province can cut down on plastics and improve recycling in an effort to protect B.C.’s waterways and environment.

Among the proposed actions the government is considering are bans on single-use packaging, requiring producers to shoulder more responsibility for plastic products, expanding the recycling refund program and reducing plastic waste across all product categories and industries.


Vancouver, BC: JUNE 08, 2019 –– Colunteers clean-up plastics and other refuse scraps from the shoreline at Second Beach in Vancouver, B.C.’s Stanley Park Saturday, June 8, 2019. Volunteers from the Vancouver Surfrider Foundation scoured local beaches Saturday as part of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup initiative.

Jason Payne /

PNG

“The message from British Columbians is loud and clear — we need to take action to reduce plastic waste, especially single-use items like water bottles and plastic bags that often find their way into our waters, streets and environment,” said Environment Minister George Heyman in a statement.

“We have all seen the striking images of animals and fish being caught up in everyday plastic waste like grocery bags or beer can loops that ensnare these beautiful creatures and it cannot continue. I look forward to hearing from people about how we can all play a part in reducing plastic pollution and plastics use overall.”

Currently, B.C. has 22 recycling programs — more than any other North American jurisdiction — that cover 14 product categories of consumer products. Those include packaging, electronics, residual solvents, beverage containers, tires and hazardous wastes.

Those programs collect about 315,000 tonnes of plastics annually.

The feedback will help inform things like the reach of a single-use plastics ban, and determining any necessary exemptions for reasons of health, safety and accessibility; possible changes to B.C.’s current recycling program and changes to the deposit-refund fee structure; as well as the possibility of an electronic refund system for empty bottle refunds.

The public can read the proposals in detail and fill out the online survey at cleanbc.ca/plastics.


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8Jul

B.C. government says ride hailing services can operate starting Sept. 16

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The provincial government says its regulations for ride hailing will be in effect as of Sept. 16, 2019.


Seth Wenig / AP

Welcome to B.C., Uber and Lyft.

The ride hailing companies could be operating on B.C. roads as early as Sept. 16, according to the provincial government, which announced Monday its regulations on licensing and insurance for ride hailing will be in effect as of that date.

However, ride hailing companies would first need to apply for permission to operate through the Passenger Transportation Board; applications will be accepted beginning Sept. 3.

The PTB, an independent board, is also responsible for setting guidelines around supply, boundaries and fares.

“Our plan has made it possible for ride-hailing companies to apply to enter the market this fall, with vehicles on the road later this year, while ensuring the safety of passengers and promoting accessibility options in the industry,” said Transportation Minister Claire Trevena in a statement.

“British Columbians have been asking and waiting for these services after more than five years of delay by the former government. We took action to allow for the services people want and we’re delivering on that promise.”

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The Passenger Transportation Act regulations will require criminal record checks and driver record checks for any driver working with a ride-hailing company, and will introduce a new 30-cent per-trip fee and a $5,000 annual license fee.

The Motor Vehicle Act regulations will change how frequently cars must undergo inspections, will remove seatbelt exceptions for all for-hire vehicles, and will introduce side-entry accessible taxis.

Drivers working for ride hailing companies are still required to hold a Class 4 commercial licence, a requirement supported by B.C.’s police chiefs association but that was not recommended by a legislative committee tasked with making recommendations for ride hailing.

Alberta requires ride hailing drivers hold a Class 1, 2 or 4 licence, all of which are for professional drivers.

ICBC will also introduce a new insurance policy for drivers and vehicles operating with ride-hailing companies, effective this September. The policy is a blanket, per kilometre insurance product that provides third-party liability and accident coverage.

Drivers working with ride-hailing companies would be required to have their own basic vehicle insurance policy when they are not working.

It will also be left to the PTB to decide how many ride-hailing vehicles will be allowed to operate, what boundaries if any are applicable and what rates would be charged.

Uber has yet to respond to the news officially, though a spokesman said the company was reviewing the details announced Monday before discussing publicly how it might impact the company’s entry into B.C.

More to come.

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5Jul

‘Too little, too late’: B.C. government sued over delay providing $750K drug | CBC News

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A 21-year-old man is suing the B.C. government for its delay in providing an expensive drug that he claims could have saved him from permanent disability.

Paul Chung of Langley, B.C., says the ministry of health provided him with Soliris, in 2017, only after an intense public lobbying campaign which led the province to cover the $750,000-a-year drug in specific cases.

The university student says he didn’t get the drug when he needed it most — immediately after his diagnosis with atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS) the previous summer.

Chung says his charter rights to “life, liberty and security of the person” have been violated by an “arbitrary” decision that left him on permanent kidney dialysis, unable to attend work or school.

“This decision was too little, too late… as Soliris must be administered promptly after diagnosis to be effective,” Chung’s notice of civil claim reads.

According to Chung’s lawsuit, he was admitted to Langley Memorial Hospital with acute renal failure in early August 2017.

AHUS is a rare condition that affects only one in a million people and fewer than 150 Canadians. The disease causes too many blood clots to form in the blood vessels, blocking regular blood flow to the kidneys.

Chung was rushed to hospital in 2017 after completing his first year of university. He was diagnosed with a rare disease that causes kidney failure. (Paul Chung/gofundme)

Chung says he was taken to St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, where staff asked  if he had private health insurance that might cover Soliris. He didn’t, and couldn’t afford Soliris on his own. 

“[Chung] was advised a disagreement existed between the medical community and [the province] over the issue of extending coverage for aHUS treatment,” the notice of claim reads. 

Like other patients with aHUS, Chung turned to online fundraising and lobbying.

“Paul’s mother has been worried sick and continues to lose sleep. Paul’s father has [taken] time off work to care for Paul. Paul’s brother dropped his university courses in order to support Paul,” his GoFundMe page reads.

“Please pray for Paul.” 

‘The kidney had already scarred’

According to Chung’s civil claim, a Canadian drug expert committee concluded that patients like Chung could benefit from Soliris in May 2015 and other provinces approved coverage of the drug while B.C. did not.

On Nov. 20, 2017, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix announced that Soliris would be covered on a case-by-case basis.

He said the province made the decision after reviewing policies in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario, where coverage is provided in exceptional cases.

Chung claims he was approved for three months’ worth of Soliris on Dec. 6, 2017.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix announced coverage for Soliris on a case-by-case basis in November 2017. (CBC)

But he says he was also told he would need to improve to the point of not needing dialysis to justify further coverage.

His coverage was discontinued in February 2018 “due to lack of improvement and [he] remains permanently on kidney dialysis.”

“His blood results have become stable, and Paul is no longer in a life-threatening position, but the miracle feature of the drug, the recovery of the kidney did not work as the kidney had already scarred,” his GoFundMe page reads.

Chung is suing for damages including cost of care and loss of income.

‘Arbitrary, irrational and unreasonable’

Chung also wants a declaration that the province infringed rights guaranteed to him by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“[Chung] is now on permanent kidney dialysis and his life expectancy is compromised,” the notice of civil claim reads.

“The Soliris administration was medically necessary to prevent serious harm.”

Chung claims that the government provides “expensive treatment and drugs to many residents of British Columbia in a myriad of circumstances.”

He says that the decision not to give him the drug “violated basic standards of decency” and “was arbitrary, irrational and unreasonable as it will cost more to treat [Chung] on permanent dialysis than to have administered Soliris to him.”

According to Chung’s gofundme page, it may take six to seven years for him to get a kidney transplant — but he will still need Soliris to protect the new kidney “from getting affected by the disease.”

The province has not yet filed a response to the claim.

None of the claims has been proven in court.


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5Jun

Government defends ICBC cap in response to lawsuit filed by trial lawyers

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Damaged vehicles are seen at ICBC’s Lower Mainland Salvage Yard.


DARRYL DYCK / THE CANADIAN PRESS

The B.C. government is defending its decision to impose a cap on ICBC claims for minor injuries, in a response to a lawsuit filed by the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C.

In April, the association sued in B.C. Supreme Court, saying the $5,500 cap on minor injury claims and the establishment of a civil resolution tribunal to adjudicate certain claims were unconstitutional and should be struck down.

The NDP government had passed the legislation enacting the changes last year after declaring that ICBC, which has reported losses of $2.2 billion in the past two years, was in a financial crisis and measures were needed to protect the interests of B.C. drivers and keep premiums down.

The association’s lawsuit argues that the new regulations have the potential to discriminate against people with brain injuries, psychiatric injuries and chronic pain by treating those injuries differently than other injuries.

It said that the scheme would have a “disproportionately adverse effect” upon women, the elderly and persons with pre-existing injuries or other disabilities.

The establishment of the tribunal would create “significant barriers” to access to justice before the superior courts for many claimants, said the suit.

But a response filed in court by the Attorney General’s Ministry emphasized that the substantial increases in ICBC claims costs had jeopardized the Crown corporation’s long-term sustainability and its ability to keep basic insurance rates affordable for drivers.

The ministry denied that the cap disproportionately adversely affects women, the elderly or persons with pre-existing conditions. “The defendants further deny that the minor injury definition includes conditions that have been subject to prejudice and stereotyping, historically or at all.”

Any distinction that the cap may draw among accident claimants is based on severity of injury, not mental or physical disability, says the ministry’s response.

The response defended the establishment of the tribunal, saying that its mandate was to resolve claims within its jurisdiction in a manner that is “accessible, speedy, economical, informal and flexible.”

The tribunal does not create a barrier to access to justice in the superior courts, the ministry said.

“There is no constitutional or fundamental right to have vehicle accident claims determined by a superior court,” it said. “Historically and at Confederation, the superior courts exercised concurrent jurisdiction with inferior courts and tribunals for personal injury claims.

“The minor injury amendments do not impair the core jurisdiction of the superior courts, nor do they otherwise cause undue hardship thereby impeding access to justice for accident claimants to whom they apply.”

No date has been set for a trial.

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8May

MRI wait times fall sharply after government boosts scans

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B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix says MRI wait times have dropped significantly since the number of scans was ramped up.


Francis Georgian / Postmedia News Files

VICTORIA — Wait times for MRIs across the province have fallen sharply during the past year after government boosted the number of scans, according to provincial data.

The median wait time for an MRI scan in the Northern Health Authority fell 66 per cent between April 2018 and March 2019, with a patient waiting roughly 24 days compared to the prior 71 days.

Vancouver Coastal Health saw wait times drop from 36 to 21 days, a 42-per-cent reduction, and Fraser Health saw a reduction to 48 days from 89 days, a 46-per-cent cut.

“I’m happy with the direction,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix. “This is what we intended to do.”

The data reflects elective or scheduled MRIs. Emergency scans are done immediately.

MRI scan reduction times released May 8, 2019


B.C.’s wait times for elective or scheduled MRIs fell after government expanded exams, according to data released by the Ministry of Health on May 8, 2019.

Ministry of Health/submitted

Last year, B.C. began running 10 of the province’s 33 MRI machines 24 hours a day, seven days a week and bought two privately owned MRI clinics  in the Fraser Valley to expand capacity, at a cost of $11 million (plus an undisclosed amount for the clinics).

Dix announced last week a further expansion of MRI scans in the coming year, but did not have the data to prove wait times had reduced. He said the ministry was compiling the final figures and provided the data publicly Wednesday.

The longest wait times for certain patients — known as the 90th percentile measure — also dropped. Some MRI scans in Fraser Health had taken 346 days last year, but fell to 224 days once government expanded capacity, a reduction of 35 per cent, said Dix.

But that is still not good enough, he said.

“I obviously like the direction, I think we’re getting there,” he said. “We wanted to see everything under 26 weeks, and everything is under 26 weeks, except this.”

The longest wait times in Vancouver Coastal Health fell from 114 days to 99 days, a reduction of 13 per cent, and in Northern Health from 257 days to 55 days, a reduction of 79 per cent.

“The huge difference in the north is obviously significant,” said Dix.

Government is adding another $5.25 million to the MRI budget next year, which Dix said will fund 15,000 additional MRI scans. Dix said the wait times should drop even further.

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28Apr

Surgery delays deepen over compliance letters B.C. government has forced on surgeons

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Dr. Amin Javer and his team perform sinus surgery on a patient at False Creek Surgery Centre in Vancouver. That is where Mr. Justice John Steeves had his sinus surgery under a contract with Vancouver Coastal Health. But the provincial government has severed contracts between health authorities and clinics that allow patients to pay for their expedited surgeries.


Arlen Redekop / PNG

Patients are waiting even longer for operations like sinus or breast reconstruction because of the latest government crackdown on private clinics and the surgeons working in them, according to affidavits filed in court.

Sinus surgeon Amin Javer says he can’t even begin to make a dent in the number of patients waiting. That’s because he only gets four operating room days at St. Paul’s Hospital a month, allowing him to handle just 12 to 16 cases monthly.

He also operated on patients at False Creek Surgical Centre. But last fall, the government ordered Vancouver Coastal Health to end its contracts with False Creek because the centre was also taking money from patients who were paying the clinic’s facility fees to get expedited surgery.

Javer was the sinus surgeon who operated on the judge in the continuing constitutional trial launched by Dr. Brian Day. The judge would not be able to get that sinus surgery today because False Creek can no longer do business with the government. Yet False Creek is the only private clinic in B.C. with the sophisticated equipment Javer needs to do delicate sinus surgeries.

Not only can Javer no longer perform publicly funded operations at False Creek, but he’s also doing fewer at St. Paul’s because, as the hospital struggles to deal with growing waiting lists, his operating room days have been cut to eight hours from 10.

He has about 300 patients on a pre-surgical wait-list and another 220 waiting for surgery. “It will take me about four years to get through my current surgical wait-list.”

He used to tell patients they’d get their surgery in 2.5 years. Now Javer, the head of the St. Paul’s Sinus Centre and co-director of ear, nose and throat research at UBC, says he has to tell them the waiting time has gone up to four years.

“There’s no outsourcing at all, so the wait-list at the hospital continues to grow. And there’s no extra time being given to surgeons at public hospitals. All that extra operating room time we were promised hasn’t happened,” he said.

Dr. Nancy Van Laeken, a plastic surgeon who performs breast reconstructive surgery on breast cancer patients, said in her affidavit that the government did not increase operating room time in public hospitals enough to compensate for the private clinic crackdown. That means that fewer surgeries are being done in B.C., she said.

Van Laeken said she has privileges to work at five hospitals but only gets four operating room days in total each month. She is willing to do surgeries 10 days a month, but can’t get more time.

“Because of the limited OR time in the public hospitals, the wait times for surgery … in the public system are very long. For example, many of my patients wait (up to) 48 months for breast reconstruction surgery,” she said in her affidavit, noting that is 42 months longer than the target.

For years, health authorities have paid several private clinics to help because of backlogs of scheduled surgeries. But most private clinics also take patients willing to pay out of pocket for expedited surgery. The NDP government argues it is illegal for clinics and doctors to take money from patients for operations covered by medicare and the government is determined to stamp out the practice.

Last fall, the government introduced so-called compliance letters. Surgeons who do any work at private clinics that have contracts with health authorities must sign statements promising they will not do medically necessary work in both the public and private systems. If they refuse, they are banned from doing publicly funded operations at those private clinics that have contracts with health authorities.

If private clinics don’t agree to the same conditions, they won’t get contracts from health authorities or could have their contracts cancelled.

There are only a few private clinics that have agreed to the terms, including View Royal Surgical Centre in Victoria and the ASC Vancouver Surgical Centre.

Javer and Van Laeken are among a group of surgeons who want B.C. Supreme Court Justice Janet Winteringham to issue an injunction to stop the province’s latest stab at clinics until the end of the Day trial, which is being heard by Justice John Steeves. Winteringham has reserved her decision.

The government’s unwavering approach doesn’t end there.

“Doctors who work at Cambie have received warnings from health authority executives that they may lose their surgical privileges in public hospitals if they continue to treat patients wishing to be treated quickly and privately at our facility,” said Day, co-owner of the Cambie Surgery Centre.

Rob Grant, a lawyer for Day, the Cambie Surgeries Corporation and other plaintiffs, calls the government’s actions “authoritarian” and counter-productive because surgeons get a limited amount of time — often only a day a week — in hospital operating rooms. Private clinics have, for over 20 years, allowed surgeons to use their excess capacity to help more patients, he said.

According to the government, the new contracting out policy has not hurt patients and “more scheduled surgeries are in fact being performed.” In the Vancouver Coastal Health region, however, the latest figures show about a third of patients who were waiting for surgery in the last nine months of 2018 were waiting for more than 26 weeks — triple the target numbers. While  86.4 per cent of scheduled operations were completed within 26 weeks, the target is more than 95 per cent.

In Fraser Health, the latest report also shows targets not being met.

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Twitter: @MedicineMatters




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17Apr

Doctors approve new fee agreement with B.C. government

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The Doctors of B.C. president, Dr. Eric Cadesky.


Doctors of B.C. / PNG

B.C.’s physicians have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a new agreement with the B.C. government in a deal that will cost taxpayers at least $331 million over the three-year deal.

Last year, the government paid out $4.516 billion for physician services. By the end of the three-year deal that took effect on April 1, that will rise to $4.85 billion.

One of the elements of the deal is a signing bonus-like payment of $7,500 to each physician who earned over $75,000 in income in 2018, or in any of the past few years, to help offset rising overhead and other costs of running their offices.

Dr. Eric Cadesky, president of Doctors of B.C., said the sum is a one-time payment. But the help with overhead costs like lease payments doesn’t end there. In 2020, the government will give physicians — in Vancouver, Victoria and other urban areas — premiums to help offset inflationary costs like higher rents.

Doctors who have offices in Vancouver, for example, will get a five per cent increase that will be capped at a daily maximum of $60; Victoria doctors with private practices will get four per cent more with a maximum of $48 a day. And in Kelowna, Nanaimo, Kamloops, Vernon and Penticton, doctors will get three per cent more up to a daily maximum of $36.

There is no cap on this weekly “business cost premium”, so doctors who keep their offices open seven days a week could earn $420 more each week.

“A reasonably active physician in the city of Vancouver could earn an additional $13,200 annually when the BCP is implemented in 2020,” Cadesky said.

For several years, doctors in private practice have been complaining about rising costs of running offices. Cadesky said it was important to have a premium in the contract that would offer some relief. Alberta has a similar program but the premium is applied as a flat rate of 1.1 per cent across the province while in B.C., the premiums rise in communities where overhead costs are higher.

Clauses like this one clearly appealed to physicians even though only about 4,000 of the 12,000 doctors in the province voted during the ratification process. Only three per cent voted against the new deal. Doctors had sought a five year deal like the term they got under the Liberals but this government wanted to keep the deal at three years, consistent with other public service contracts.

 

Doctors will also get an additional half of one per cent more in fees in each of the three years and an assortment of other compensation payments to help with retirement plans, malpractice insurance premiums, and pay for work previously not compensated, like adding information to patient charts, writing reports, following up on lab and diagnostic tests, and maintaining electronic medical files.

The new contract is outlined in nearly 400 pages and is called the Physician Master Agreement. Cadesky said it will go a long way toward helping support family physicians who want to deliver a full spectrum of care — often referred to as cradle-to-grave patient care.

Patients should benefit because the new contract includes a commitment from the government to hire more doctors to “address growth in the workload of existing physicians (such as) emergency room physicians and medical oncologists.”

The contract also addresses some fee disparities between various medical specialists. There’s a sum of $42.73 million to shrink gaps between lower and higher paid physicians — highly paid ophthalmologists, for example, compared to geriatricians, pediatricians and psychiatrists.

The government has made good on its pledge to reduce the amount of money ophthalmologists earn doing cataract removal surgery. When negotiations began last year, the government’s starting point was a fee cut of 80 per cent, provoking a near revolt on the part of such surgeons. After many months of negotiations, the parties settled on a fee of $350, down from $425, about 18 per cent lower.

The savings — $4.7 million — are to be used to raise fees of other surgeons and specialists who are considered relatively underpaid. 

The contract also boosts government funding for things like continuing medical education, disability insurance  and rural physician funding. There are pledges by the government to consult more with doctors, including on violence prevention in health facilities, electronic medical records, and new payment models.

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Twitter: @MedicineMatters




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