The federal health minister still has a spotty record of upholding the Canada Health Act. Internal documents obtained by the media show the federal government has penalized British Columbia for allowing private health care but is letting other provinces get away with for-profit care.
The National Post got the documents under access to information laws. The papers show the federal government isnt consistently enforcing the Canada Health Act. The Act outlaws private care, yet the government acknowledges there are 34 private MRI clinics operating in five provinces, many of which let patients pay for MRI scans and jump ahead of long queues. None of the provinces allowing these fees Nova Scotia, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia – have been fined. In addition, there are numerous other violations of the Act which arent in the briefing notes.
The government did fine B.C.$126,000 for letting patients buy their way to quicker surgery at private clinics. The provinces health minister responded by challenging the CHAs definition of medically necessary and medically required. He has a clear interest in redefining the rules: B.C. is in the midst of a massive contracting out of MRI scans and surgical procedures.
The federal government has drawn repeated criticism from the auditor general for lax administration of the CHA. In 2002 a coalition, including CUPE, launched a court challenge to force the health minister to stop the spread of privatization by monitoring and enforcing the CHA. The groups went to court because the health minister was submitting incomplete annual reports on the CHA to the House of Commons. A federal court judge ruled this fall that the case raised important policy questions, and referred the issues back to Parliament.
CUPE is working to ensure Canadians arent left in the dark with the next report to Parliament, expected early in the New Year. CUPE and the coalition behind the challenge are lobbying MPs to press for a full accounting of the health ministers efforts to stop privatization and uphold the CHA.