WorkSafeBC sends some patients to private Calgary clinic because of restrictive B.C. rule

The Vancouver Sun  |  PAMELA FAYERMAN  |  Published on: January 22, 2017

Seventy B.C. residents injured on the job were sent to Calgary in the past three years for expedited surgery at a private Calgary facility.

Although there are 15 private surgery centres in B.C. to which WorkSafe usually sends clients for rapid treatment, a minority go to Canadian Surgery Solutions for three reasons:

  1. They require hip or knee joint replacement surgery and, unlike B.C. where stays in private surgery centres are limited to one night, Alberta allows patients to stay more than one night in such facilities.
  2. They were injured on a B.C. job site, but live in Alberta.
  3. They live so close to the border that Calgary is most convenient.

WorkSafe spokeswoman Trish Knight Chernecki said the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. prohibits stays of more than one night in private surgery centres.

As long as 13 years ago, the College, which accredits private surgical facilities to ensure safety and quality, had considered increasing the length of post-operative stays in private surgery centres. But an amendment to provincial rules under the Medical Practitioners Act is required and discussions with government have dragged on and on.

A year and a half ago, College registrar Dr. Heidi Oetter said the government was floating the concept of letting private surgery clinics do more complicated operations and so regional health authorities could contract out more cases out to them. That, in a bid to see waiting times in B.C.  shrink. But if private surgery centres are more like hospitals, then they will have to hire security guards, offer full meal service, have an array of imaging technology and even laboratories and intensive care units, she said. And provincial statutes would have to change.

Susan Prins, spokeswoman for the College, said it doesn’t oppose extended stays but the issue is who accredits facilities that are more like hospitals than day surgery facilities. The College has been discussing the issue with government for more than a decade but nothing has ever been finalized.

“If the government chose to move in this direction, the College would need to conduct an extensive review of its current non-hospital program and, if the decision was made to expand the program, it would need to draft new bylaws, develop standards appropriate for longer stays, and consider resourcing and funding,” Prins said.

“This isn’t something that could happen without a lot of advance notice and planning. And, there would also need to be an assessment to determine if there is even a demand in B.C. for an extended stay private facility.”