Alberta Patients and the Wait for Justice
Prohibited from purchasing private health insurance in Alberta, patients Darcy Allen and Richard Cross were forced to leave Canada to access medically necessary services in the United States. Both patients filed legal cases claiming the Alberta Government’s monopoly on health care infringes on their Charter “right to life, liberty and security of the person”. The court hearing was held on October 17th, 2013 at the Court of Queen’s Bench in Calgary.
What can I tell you about this court hearing? If only I could tell you that the public gallery in the courtroom was packed, but it wasn’t. There was Darcy Allen, a retired doctor, a few reporters, and me. The judge spent the first part of the morning questioning whether the case should be referred back to the government’s quasi-judicial Out-of-Country Health Services Appeal Panel for a re-hearing. One of the government’s lawyers quickly pointed out that the Out-of-Country Health Services Regulation contains no process for a re-hearing.
The judge then questioned whether this is a matter of social policy and therefore not appropriate for the courts. What? The government’s monopoly on health care is steeped in legislation and regulations that infringe on our individual rights; of course it’s a matter for the courts. Next he requested that a brief be submitted on the Cross case indicating why it falls under the court’s jurisdiction. The Allen case could proceed.
The judge stated that he had read the materials on Cross but had no case information on Allen. A short recess was called so he could locate the case files. When court reconvened he asked legal counsel to direct him to the most important documents so that he could read them over the lunch break. What? Are those really security cameras in the corners of the room or is someone going to pop out and tell me this is all a big joke? It’s no wonder only one reporter returned to the courtroom after lunch.
Here’s a brief summary of the arguments made on behalf of the Alberta Government:
Blaming the patient
There are no guarantees when it comes to wait times.
The patient should have tried other Alberta doctors.
We’d need to hear from the patient’s doctor to see if the patient followed his advice.
How do we know the patient really needed surgery?
Blaming the doctor
The duty to apply to the committee rests with the doctor.
Doctors file the applications and the committee relies on their recommendations.
It’s the doctors who manage waiting lists.
We’re improving the system
This is only one complaint, only one person.
The government has taken steps to improve wait times.
I wanted to stand up and holler out for the patients who’ve lost their lives under socialized medicine. I wanted to stand up and holler out for Darcy Allen, Richard Cross and all of the other patients forced to leave Canada to access medical care. I wanted to stand up and holler out for the patients on government waiting lists.
The judge reserved his decision on the Allen case which means he’s going to think about it and then provide a written decision. The Cross case has yet to be heard. In the meantime, patients are forced to depend on failing government social programs for access to health care.
If only I could tell you that justice is alive and well, but I can’t. The truth is – she’s on a waiting list.