A 5-community tour in defence of public health care began in Prince Albert yesterday afternoon.
The tour aims to highlight the latest threats to public health care in Saskatchewan and provincial legislation that is promoting privatization of the system. Following Prince Albert, the tour will now head to Yorkton (today), then Battleford (September 15), Weyburn (September 16) and Regina (September 17).
The Battlefords News-Optimist has reported, “The Council of Canadians National Office and the CUPE Health Care Council are co-hosting the meetings. The Council of Canadians health campaigner, Michael Butler, will be one of the speakers on the tour, which will include a focus on the province’s moves towards privatization.”
This morning, the Prince Albert Daily Herald reports, “Council of Canadians national health care campaigner Michael Butler [spoke] at Sunday’s Keep Health Care Public Festival at Kinsmen Park.”
Butler says, “The Saskatchewan government has been increasingly privatizing hospital services, ignoring reports that show public-private partnerships cost more for lower quality care. Despite the negative experiences of other provinces, the government has also proposed pay-for-access MRIs. Unless we prescribe a change of direction, our public health care will not be very healthy.”
In May 2015, the CBC reported, “[Saskatchewan] Health Minister Dustin Duncan introduced legislation [this month] that would pave the way for more people to get private scans, if they have the cash. It proposes that patients could pay a private clinic for a magnetic resonance imaging scan if they choose. Duncan said the changes could be in place to allow for MRI scans at private clinics as soon as [the spring of 2016]. For every scan paid for privately, clinics would be required to provide a scan at no charge to a patient on the public wait list. The price of a private MRI will be set by the clinic, and the idea is it will cover the cost of at least two MRIs.”
Butler has commented, “What Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall is talking about is queue jumping for the rich and further stepping away from universal, publicly funded health care for the people in Saskatchewan. When you have a two-tiered system with private clinics for the rich, it makes staff shortages even worse as health professionals are poached from the public system. Moreover, with private MRI clinics we have seen that they are located in urban centres (where the wealthiest clients are), removing scarce health care professionals, capacity and funding from rural areas.”
In October 2014, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow spoke against a proposed public-private partnership hospital in North Battleford that the Wall government wants to open by 2018. A private consortium chosen would design, build, finance and maintain the P3 hospital. She highlighted, “The hospital plans are part of a broader push to privatize public health care in Saskatchewan. Whether in Brad Wall’s latest musings about private MRIs on social media, or in his government’s damaging moves to privatize long-term care facilities, laundry services, surgeries and diagnostic services, there’s no room for profit in our public health care system. Privatization hurts patients and communities by eroding access to quality care, and endangering good jobs.”
Barlow also joined with CUPE National President Paul Moist for a public forum in defence of public health in Regina in June 2014.
In Prince Albert yesterday afternoon, Butler was joined by CUPE Saskatchewan President Tom Graham. CUPE communications officer Tria Donaldson will be joining Butler in Yorkton, Battleford and Weyburn. And CUPE researcher Cheryl Stadnichuk will be speaking alongside him in Battleford and Regina.
Council of Canadians opposes user-pay MRIs in Saskatchewan (May 2015 blog)
Photos: Butler and the Council of Canadians Prince Albert chapter in Kinsmen Park yesterday.