Fifty years of Medicare in Saskatchewan
Sunday is the 50th anniversary of the arrival of medicare in Saskatchewan. It was a pivotal , but divisive moment in Saskatchewan's history that even led to a doctors' strike.
When the Saskatchewan Medical Care Insurance Act took effect, many of the province's doctor's responded by staging what's known famously as the Doctors' Strike of 1962. Massive rallies were held at the legislature, and the debate divided the province.
Former Premier Roy Romanow was a student and active in the NDP at the time.
"There were huge rallies, and excessive statements made by both sides, I suspect, of the issue," said Romanow.
The big issue was that doctors feared the loss of control of their profession.
"There was this feeling that the payment - that is, how you get paid - would somehow interfere with the doctor/patient relationship," said Howard Leeson from the University of Regina.
In hindsight, Leeson said you wonder what the fuss was about given that public service existed elsewhere, like in public education. He added it's hard to understand the controversy now given that medicare is part of our makeup.
Doctor Noel Doig said Tommy Douglas even acknowledged the strike wasn't about money. Dr. Doig practiced at the time, and insists that clinics were still running during the strike and patients were getting treatment.
"There's no reference anywhere," said Dr. Doig, "of a patient being turned away and being refused services."
Dr. Doig has written a book documenting that, trying to change the perception of the strike.
Romanow remembers that it came down to values that still ring true for many today.
"Is health care a social good? Or is health care a commodity to be sold and purchased?" said Romanow.
Leeson calls the 1962 Doctors' Strike a defining moment in Saskatchewan's history. An agreement between the government and the doctors was finally reached after 23 days. That marked the basis for medicare, which many Canadians still feel proud about today.
Edited by News Talk Radio's Courtney Mintenko.