Canadian Doctors for Medicare | 340 Harbord Street | Toronto, Ontario | M6G IH4
June 10, 2016
Dear Minister Philpott:
Yesterday, Saskatchewan Minister of Health Dustin Duncan introduced a bill to allow privatized CT scan services where patients can pay for priority treatment and jump ahead of the queue.
This bill is the latest in an alarming series of violations of the Canada Health Act that are on the rise across the country. Quebec’s Bill 20, Alberta’s issues with the Copeman Clinic, and private MRIs in Saskatchewan all overtly defy the Canada Health Act and undermine Canadian medicare.
Canadian Doctors for Medicare is concerned the Saskatchewan government’s intention is to create a two-tier health care system in that province but are equally concerned your government has not, as yet, acted on your duty to protect the Canadian health care system.
Minister Duncan asserts that introducing private CT scans will increase public capacity and reduce wait times without costing the taxpayers any dollars. However, research on parallel private care has shown that, without exception, when private parallel for-profit health services are introduced, the result is greater wait times within the public system.
Evidence also shows that private, for-profit clinics drain the limited supply of health professionals from the rest of the health care system, lengthening waiting lists and reducing access.We also know that wait times can be decreased through initiatives within a single payer system.
These experiments will increase inequities between the most affluent and all other patients, especially those in small towns, rural areas and indigenous communities, who are never the “beneficiaries” of private care. What’s more, every indication is that they will fail, at great cost. When he first introduced the concept of pay-per-use diagnostic imaging to the province, Premier Wall cited Alberta as an example; however, the Government of Alberta has moved away from the policy at great cost. Alberta was forced to repay patients for medically-necessary imaging services that were in contravention of the Canada Health Act, and moved virtually all MRI and CT services back into the public system. Alberta has since built public capacity and cracked down on the practice of extra-billing.
Premier Wall is openly enthusiastic about continuing to explore pay-per-service health care delivery in Saskatchewan. His concept of health care delivery results in extra-billing and two-tier health; patients in greatest need wait longer while those who can afford it pay to receive priority treatment. His ideas are contrary to the principles of the Canada Health Act.
Prime Minister Trudeau wrote in his mandate letter to you, “The federal government must be an essential partner in improving outcomes and quality of care for Canadians.” You can achieve this goal by abiding the primary objective of the Canada Health Act to “facilitate reasonable access to health services without financial or other barriers” and enforce the Canada Health Act.
Monika Dutt MD, CCFP, FRCPC
Chair, Canadian Doctors for Medicare