Today, Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili committed to enacting legislation to protect the province from privatized healthcare and reverse the steps taken by the Sask. Party towards a two-tiered system.
“As a family doctor, I ask my patients how they’re feeling, not how they’re paying,” said Meili. “But under the Sask. Party, people are being asked to pay for the care they need, and wait times are getting worse and worse. The Sask. Party’s only answer is deep cuts to the healthcare regular families need and private care for the few who can afford it.”
In June, NDP Health Critic Vicki Mowat introduced a private member’s bill that would repeal the province’s private MRI legislation and focus on getting all patients the care they need, not just those who can pay to jump the queue.
The Sask Party’s failed system of private MRIs has done nothing to ease the backlog, and wait times continue to grow. In fact, it’s made things worse. The number of people waiting for an MRI has nearly doubled since the introduction of the Sask. Party’s patient pay model. With the nation’s second lowest level of specialist coverage, people waiting for MRIs and access to specialists are left with uncertainty, pain and increasing health problems.
Ricki Steffen, a Regina mother with a degenerative disc and degenerative joint disease, is in need of multiple MRIs. She has no idea when she will get a specialist appointment or how long she will have to wait for the test once referred. Her doctors are urging her to pay for a private MRI at a cost of $3000.
“I’ve been to three family doctors who can’t send me for an MRI so I have to see a specialist, and it’s been two months to even get a call back from a specialist,” said Steffen. “Who knows how long I’ll have to wait when I finally get on the list. I’ve gone from good health to not being able to walk. I don’t have the money to pay to skip the line. Even if I did, I don’t think that’s right.”
The Saskatchewan Medicare Protection Act would be modeled on British Columbia’s Medicare Protection Act to prevent further expansion of American-style patient pay services and double-billing that undermine our public health care system. A recent ruling by the BC Supreme Court upheld the government’s ability to protect universal healthcare, ruling against a constitutional challenge that would have paved the way for further access to medical treatment based on the ability to pay rather than medical need. Crucially, Justice John Steeves affirmed the expert advice and research that access to private health care services did not decrease wait times, and lead to lengthier waits in the public system.