B.C. user fees must be punished: federal Liberals
Published Friday, October 22, 2010 8:44AM EDT
VICTORIA - The federal Opposition Liberals and B.C. Opposition New Democrats are calling on Ottawa to stop the B.C. Liberal government from charging user fees at Vancouver area hospitals.
Federal Liberal Health critic Ujjal Dosanjh said Thursday the B.C. government is contravening the Canada Health Act by charging the $29-a-day fees at Lower Mainland hospitals.
Dosanjh said the B.C. government is taxing seriously injured people and others on fixed incomes.
"Hospital care in the Canada Health Act is a publicly insured health service and there is a specific prohibition in the Canada Health Act against any user fees, any extra billing for publicly insured health services," he said in an interview.
Dosanjh has written to federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq asking her to investigate the B.C. fees and he's written B.C. Health Minister Kevin Falcon asking him to drop them.
"I urge you to have Health Canada investigate British Columbia's $29-per-day hospital user fees recently applied throughout the Vancouver area," said Dosanjh's letter to Aglukkaq.
The letter said the fees may even deter some patients from receiving the care they desperately need.
Falcon said the government started charging the fees earlier this year. He said they are charged for people needing short-term residential care to recover from medical treatment.
Falcon said the fees do not breach the Canada Health Act.
"Residential care services all fall directly under the (provincial) Continuing Care Act," he said. "This is entirely provincial jurisdiction."
The fees include a hardship provision for those who cannot pay.
Opposition New Democrat heath critic Adrian Dix called the fees a "money grab."
But Falcon said he found it ironic that Dix and Dosanjh were raising concerns about user fees, because when the two politicians were part of the previous B.C. NDP governments, they helped introduce user fees at hospitals for respite and palliative care.