In response to the doubling of MRI wait list in Saskatchewan over the past four years, the NDP Opposition is calling for action to lower wait times, and an end to Saskatchewan’s failed experiment with Americanized healthcare through their patient-pay, for-profit MRI clinics.

“We need a healthcare system that puts people first, regardless of their ability to pay,” said NDP Leader Ryan Meili. “The province is putting federal transfers in jeopardy for a scheme that has failed. It’s time to put Saskatchewan patients first, cancel this failed experiment with American-style healthcare, and make the necessary investments to get people timely access to diagnostics.”

According to Health Canada’s Diagnostic Services Policy, Saskatchewan has until April 1 of this year to come into compliance with the Canada Health Act, potentially putting future health transfers at risk if Saskatchewan is found to be in violation.

Meili is calling for an end to the patient-pay model. To address the growing wait list, the NDP would ensure adequate staffing of existing MRIs to minimize the time they’re sitting idle while Saskatchewan people wait, instruct the Saskatchewan Health Authority to take measures to reduce unnecessary referrals and testing, and make the necessary investments to ensure that testing is available when it’s needed.

“This government is putting the wealthy and well-connected first with this costly experiment with American-style patient-pay clinics, and now they’re potentially putting millions of dollars in federal health transfers at risk,” said NDP Health Critic Vicki Mowat. “The MRI clinics we have are understaffed and are not running at full capacity, and by letting those who can pay jump the queue, this government has only slowed down the process for everyone. It’s time we put people first by putting an end to this failed for-profit, patient-pay experiment.”

 

BACKGROUND: Private-Pay MRI System in Saskatchewan

February 2016: The MRI Facilities Licensing Act and corresponding regulations are brought into force.

March 2016: Government of Saskatchewan Private Pay MRI Services become available

November 2016: Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott writes Health Minister Jim Reiter expressing significant concerns about the system and warning Saskatchewan could be deducted “dollar-for-dollar” for the program’s violation of the Canada Health Act.

January 2017: The federal government gave Saskatchewan one year to make its case private MRI policy aligns with the Canada Health Act.

June 2017: Provincial Auditor finds the one-for-one model for MRI scans is not yet reducing wait times and highlights concerns with the oversight and administration of MRIs by private operators.

August 2018: Federal Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor wrote to provincial and territorial counterparts outlining the new Diagnostic Services Policy, which formalized the longstanding federal position that medically necessary diagnostic services received in private clinics are considered insured services and should not be subject to user fees. Provinces and territories were informed that if patients continue to be charged for these services will be subject to deductions from federal transfers under the Canada Health Act, with the policy taking effect on April 1, 2020.

January 2020: It is reported Saskatchewan’s wait list for MRIs has doubled between 2015 and 2019, with more than 10,000 patients waiting when data was last reported in June 2019.