Health professionals and advocates call for health care based on need, not ability to pay

Saskatoon, Sask- Today health care professionals and public health advocates urged Premier Wall to reverse a plan that would violate the Canada Health Act, and called on Minister Philpott to impose penalties if it is implemented.

Premier Wall has stated that if re-elected his party will create a second-tier in health care for both MRI and CT scans. This will allow affluent patients to jump the queue, however, it will not solve the problems of wait times, warn advocates.

“Expedited services for those with the ability to pay has been shown to remove needed resources from the public system and lengthen wait times for the vast majority of patients,” says Dr. Ryan Meili of Canadian Doctors for Medicare. “Along with increasing wait times, direct patient payment allows unethical queue-jumping for publicly funded services, such as a surgery that may follow imaging.”

“For-pay diagnostic services go against the fundamentals of patient care and the professional ethics we as registered nurses strive to live up to each and every day,” says SUN President, Tracy Zambory. “When you break it down – whether we are triaging patients in the ER, in labour and delivery, post-op recovery, long-term care or anywhere else in the system, registered nurses are constantly assessing our patients; and prioritizing and coordinating their care based on their needs – access to vital diagnostic imaging and any other health services should be based on this same elementary principle and not on the size of a patient’s bank account.”

Saskatchewan is not the first province to experiment with two-tiered health care. Alberta and Manitoba also privatized MRIs but moved away from the policy after witnessing wait times lengthen and public MRI operating hours decrease.

We are deeply concerned about the impact this move to privatize could have on patients in Saskatchewan and across Canada.

“Premier Wall is showing his flagrant disregard for the Canada Health Act,” said Adrienne Silnicki, National Coordinator, Canadian Health Coalition. “Not only is it illegal to charge patients for medically necessary procedures like MRIs and CT scans, but due to trade agreements like NAFTA it’s possible that once these services are privatized we may never be able to return to a single-tiered health care system. We are making ourselves very vulnerable to an American style of care”.

Representatives from Canadian Doctors for Medicare, the Saskatchewan Nurses Union, and the Canadian Health Coalition spoke against the two-tiered privatization of MRIs and CT scans saying improvements should be made within the public health care system. They are also calling on Federal Health Minister, Dr. Jane Philpott, to intervene and warn the Saskatchewan government that if they follow through with these privatizations and charge patients for medically necessary services financial penalties will follow.


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Canadian Health Coalition