VANCOUVER -- A lawyer for the British Columbia government says private clinics would increase wait lists for “ordinary” people in the public system and especially harm those who are most dependent on universal health care.

Jonathan Penner told a B.C. Supreme Court judge today that the frail and elderly, patients with complex conditions, and those with severe mental illness and substance-use issues account for most of the resources used in the public system.

He says those patients aren't being considered by Dr. Brian Day, an orthopedic surgeon whose decade-long constitutional challenge argues patients have a right to pay for services if wait times in the public system are too long.

Penner says a two-tier system would drain public health care of doctors, anesthesiologists and nurses who would be lured to private clinics, like the one owned by Day, and increase costs of regulating both types of care.

Day has maintained that four plaintiff patients have been deprived of life, liberty and security under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms after suffering harms from waiting for surgery in the public system before they sought care at his clinic.

Penner says Day's legal team has failed to identify whether any harms the patients may have endured were related to wait times in the public system.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2020.