SK doctors oppose patient choice for MRIs

In 1962 Saskatchewan physicians and the Saskatchewan Medical Association [SMA] — supported by tens of thousands of patients — successfully protested to protect the integrity of the physician-patient relationship and clinical independence of the medical profession.

How ironic — and disappointing — that today the SMA supports the Medicare monopoly that:

  • Doesn’t provide a care guarantee
  • Prohibits patient choice when Medicare fails to deliver timely access to necessary care
  • Is an out-of-control PacMan gobbling up more and more taxpayer dollars, thereby leaving less and less for important government services such as low-income support, social housing, seniors programs and education.

According to a December 15, 2015 Canadian Press story, “Saskatchewan doctors are concerned that the government’s decision in November is a ‘hasty policy’.”

The Saskatchewan Government passed legislation that enables people to pay privately for MRIs. Private clinics will have to provide a scan to a patient on the public wait list at no charge every time a MRI is provided to someone who chooses to pay for it. According to the minister of health, this will provide additional MRI capacity at no cost to taxpayers.

But Saskatchewan Medical Association President Dr. Mark Brown disagrees, arguing writes that the legislation runs contrary to the fundamental principle of Medicare; and, he alleges the approach could quickly “go bad.”

In response, Health Minister Dustin Duncan noted that members of the Saskatchewan Roughriders CFL football team and the Workers’ Compensation Board have had the ability to pay for MRIs for many years. He also said family physicians in Saskatchewan already refer patients to other provinces where they can pay for an MRI.

“If this a practice that the (SMA) is so philosophically opposed to … I don’t see them making moves to not allow their own members to do this already, which (Dr. Brown has) acknowledged that already happens,” said Duncan. “I don’t think it was hasty.”

“Setting from Record Straight. A Doctor’s Memoir of the 1962 Medicare Crisis” by Dr. Noel Doig is an excellent account of what actually occurred. For example, in the Foreword, Dr. Paul Korol notes:

  • “Certainly it was not a strike according to the trade unionists’ version of ‘strike'” because of “the continued provision of medical services 24 hours a day, provided free by doctors.”
  • The NDP government’s “contempt for doctors” is best illustrated by Tommy Douglas’ comment that those opposed to his plan were “not only a disgrace to the medical profession but a disgrace to the human race.”



Canada’s government-run health care system – Medicare -- is a monopoly that prohibits private hospital and private physician care. Medicare is a subpar performer, ranking 10th among 11 advanced countries. Canadians deserve much better! Patients deserve timely access to quality care and choice of hospitals and physicians. Taxpayers deserve much more value for their tax dollars.

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