Broten blasts premier's two-tier health care proposal

Government’s plan to allow some to queue-jump will leave most waiting longer for surgery

The NDP is sharply criticizing the premier's proposal to fast-track MRIs for those who can afford to pay extra because it will leave everyone else waiting even longer for their surgeries.

The premier's proposal goes well beyond the private care providers currently operating within the publicly funded system. Premier Brad Wall said Thursday he wants a separate diagnostic stream for the wealthy, in which access to expensive MRIs is determined by people's ability to pay rather than by a doctor's assessment of medical need.

“Saskatchewan families don't want two-tier health care, where you gain access to diagnosis and treatment with a credit card instead of your health card,” said NDP Leader Cam Broten. “The reality is that Mr. Wall can create two line-ups for MRIs, but there’s still only one line-up for surgeries. Patients who need surgery but can’t afford to buy an expensive, private MRI will wait even longer while patients who can afford a quick, but expensive MRI get on the surgery list ahead of them. That’s just wrong.”

“The status quo is absolutely not acceptable – wait times are far too long. But I want wait times for MRIs, specialists and surgeries improved for everyone in the province, not just for the select few who can afford it.”

Broten refuted the notion that a separate diagnostic stream for the wealthy shortens weight times. He noted that the Canadian Institute of Health Information reports that the typical wait for an MRI scan in Alberta, where private MRIs are in place, was 80 days in 2013, much longer than the 28-day wait in Saskatchewan.

Broten said expanding the public system is a sustainable solution, and disagrees with the government that access should be expanded just for those few who have the ability to pay.

“Can you imagine a young family being forced to wait longer for surgery because those who can afford to pay get rushed to the front of the line?” Broten asked. “That’s a system that works for just a few. I want a health care system that’s improved for everyone.”

Broten also expressed serious concerns about MRI technicians and other health care staff moving to the private system, making short-staffing in hospitals even worse.

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