Sask’s doctors strongly oppose Sask. Party user-pay MRI plan

NDP wants two-tier MRI legislation shelved, not proclaimed

The Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA), which represents 90 per cent of the province's physicians, is strongly opposed to the Sask. Party's user-pay, two-tier MRI plan.

An internal memo says senior SMA leadership met with the health minister at the end of October to warn him about this "hasty policy."

The doctors’ memo reads: "We expressed strong opposition to Bill 179 that provides for private MRI facilities. We stressed that the SMA advocates for and supports the concept of a strong publicly funded health care system where access to medical care is based on need and not the ability to pay. This new legislation runs contrary to this fundamental principle of medicare."

The health minister did not disclose the concerns raised by Saskatchewan's doctors during any of the debates in the legislature on their MRI privatization scheme. The Sask. Party government also refused to allow expert witnesses – including SMA representatives – to share their views during the committee process.

"We completely agree with Saskatchewan's doctors," said Danielle Chartier, the NDP's health critic. "We want to fix MRI wait times for everyone.

“The Sask. Party is saying you pay, or you wait. That’s not fair to young families. It’s not fair to seniors. It’s not fair to physicians – we count on doctor's expertise to tell us which cases are the most urgent, not a bank or a credit card company.”

The Sask. Party refused to hear from experts and tried to shut down questioning during the committee hearings on the legislation. The Sask. Party then used their majority to pass the bill in the legislature, but the cabinet has not yet proclaimed the legislation – so it's not yet a law.

The NDP wants the legislation shelved, not proclaimed.

"It's not too late to listen to Saskatchewan's doctors and do the right thing," said Chartier. "We can improve and expand the current system. The government's own review from just a few months ago showed that 1,500 more MRI scans could be done in Saskatoon alone, during current hours of operation, simply by eliminating waste and making common-sense improvements to the MRI system. That's a much smarter approach than bringing in a two-tier system."