Owners of some private B.C. medical clinics are warning longer wait times for surgeries are possible if new rules come into play in the province.

While many book procedures through the public system, some patients opt to pay to skip the wait. But starting Oct. 1, those looking to have their surgery sooner may have trouble finding someone to do it.

The province's health minister announced earlier this year that doctors who charge patients for publicly insured services will face hefty fines – as much as $10,000 on first offence and $20,000 on second. Practitioners can also be de-enrolled from the province's Medical Services Plan, meaning they're no longer able to bill the public health system at all.

The crackdown followed a Health Canada audit which estimated about $15.9 million in extra fees were charged in 2015-16. Following the review, federal health funding to B.C. was reduced by $15.9 million.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the intention was to protect the public system, and that it would not affect those who want to pay out of pocket for procedures such as cosmetic surgery. Clinics that currently partner with health authorities to offer services covered by MSP when public facilities are booked up would also be unaffected.

The ministry said its new strategy would help improve timely access to publicly insured procedures by creating a more efficient system.

"We can't have a situation where B.C. patients are losing out because people aren't following the laws," Dix said.

But operators of private clinics like the Okanagan Health Surgical Centre's Dr. Brian Peterson say the changes will have negative effects across the system.

"I think people should be really concerned because the government is now taking away your ability to provide or seek out health care for yourself," the Kelowna-based surgeon said.

"This is a ripple effect that's going to continue to spread in a system that obviously isn't providing adequate care."

Peterson said it might stop some doctors from performing surgeries altogether, and that it may encourage patients to leave the province to get treatment.

And with those who might have paid previously now turning to the public system, he says it may lead to longer wait times for everyone.

"I have 80-year-old patients calling, wanting a hernia repair, that have been on a wait list," said Okanagan Health Surgical Centre's Twyla Vogt.

"It's hard when they've paid into the medical system that long and now they're on a wait list."

The health minister insists the province is opening new operating rooms, and that increasing the number of surgeries and the use of MRIs will help prevent an increase in wait.

With a report from CTV Vancouver's St. John Alexander