Saturday, December 31, 2011

Saskatoon Community Clinic celebrates 50 years of medicare

Click image above to enlarge

Saskatchewan's municipal doctors: A forerunner of the medicare system that developed 50 years later

By C. Stuart Houston, MD

Saskatchewan, a far-flung, agrarian and thinly populated province, was the first jurisdiction in Canada to employ municipal doctors and municipal hospitals, and the only province where the system was widely adopted. Why and how did Saskatchewan come to lead North America in introducing these important milestones on the road to medicare?

One answer lies in the cooperative spirit that developed as a way of coping with the exigencies of rural life. Communities came together for barn raisings and, later, to build skating rinks and curling rinks. Extending this spirit of cooperation to the provision of health care was a natural outgrowth, especially since people widely scattered in a new land had a hard time finding medical services.

Read more HERE. (pdf)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Health Minister’s ‘what would Tommy do?’ rationale misses mark

By Robert Matas
Globe and Mail
Dec. 28, 2011

“I’m not certain Tommy Douglas had in mind free parking when he talked about universal publicly funded health care,” Health Minister Mike de Jong says in a year-end interview in the Vancouver Sun.

Tommy Douglas is a library in Burnaby, a collegiate in Saskatoon, a street in Côte Saint-Luc and a townhouse development in Toronto. Corner Gas fans know the politician who introduced universal publicly financed medicare to Canada as the advocate for free coffee refills.

“You’re not in Toronto any more, Lacey, with your grande-mocha-dappo-loppa-frappochinos,” Brent said during an episode in the first season. “This is Saskatchewan. Tommy Douglas fought the federal government for free refills on coffee.”

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Four comments on Harper's attack on health care

Is Money Enough? The Meaning of 6% and Flaherty’s Health “Plan”
By Armine Yalnizyan
Progressive Economics Forum
December 21st, 2011

As Christmas presents go, this one was a shocker: Over lunch on Monday, cash-strapped Finance Minister Jim Flaherty promised provincial and territorial finance ministers he’d increase federal funding for health care by six per cent each year for the next five years. No strings attached. No negotiations. A done deal. With a catch.
Read more HERE.

Attacking our health care is un-Canadian
The Citizen 
December 21, 2011

The agenda for the federal Conservatives with regard to health care transfer payments is quite simple. They want to force privatization of our health care system by starving it of the funds it needs to keep going.
Read more HERE.

Leading Canada's public healthcare to the free-market guillotine
By Stefan Christoff
December 22, 2011

National discussion in Canada on the Conservative government's new healthcare financial ultimatum, a take-it-or-leave-it-style proposal, largely revolves around myths. First that financing alone is key to securing a sustainable public healthcare system and second that free-market economic winds will provide sustainable guidelines, via GDP, for viable future government healthcare financing.
Read more HERE.

Feds walk away from health care reform
Council of Canadians
December 21, 2011

The Harper government let down millions of Canadians this week by effectively walking away from the opportunity to craft a 2014 Health Accord that brings real reform to our health care system.
Read more HERE.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Thompson Committee (1960–62) and Saskatchewan Medicare

By C. Stuart Houston
Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan

Dr. W. P. Thompson
The Advisory Planning Committee on Medical Care consisted of twelve members: its Chair, Dr. W.P. Thompson, recently retired as president of the University of Saskatchewan; Beatrice Trew and Cliff Whiting (representing the people of the province); Drs. J.F.C. Anderson, E.W. Barootes, and C.J. Houston (College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan); Dr. I.M. Hilliard (College of Medicine); Donald McPherson (Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce); W.E. Smishek (Saskatchewan Federation of Labour); and Dr. V.L. Matthews, former Health Minister T.J. Bentley, and Deputy Minister of Public Health Dr. F.B. Roth (the last three representing the government of Saskatchewan). John E. Sparks served as the non-voting secretary. Six of the twelve members were medical doctors.

The committee received its instructions on April 26, 1960, and deliberations began on May 9. The committee held 23 meetings for a total of 43 days; it conducted 33 public and 7 private hearings, analysed 50 study documents, and received 1,226 pages of documentation in 49 briefs. Teams of committee members visited health care programs in Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Holland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. The committee was instructed to report to Walter Erb, Minister of Public Health, on “the extent of public need in the various fields of health care as related to a medical care program,” following the broadest possible interpretation. They studied in detail the doctor-sponsored plans (GMS and MSI), municipal doctor plans, the plan for public assistance recipients, as well as existing mental health, cancer and tuberculosis programs.

Bad medicine: Harper's prescription for privatization Medicare

By Jesse McLaren
December 21, 2011
The Harper government has announced a new funding arrangement for Medicare, which after 2016 will be tied to economic growth in the nominal GDP. According to one estimate, this will translate into $21 billion in cuts  to health-care funding over 10 years. By unilaterally imposing health-care funding cuts on the provinces, the Harper government is putting its own brand on a familiar prescription for privatization: scapegoat Medicare, ignore private health costs, pretend you don't have any money, and then cut public health care to encourage privatization.

1. Scapegoat Medicare

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, fresh off his attack on Muslim women, was the first Tory to open the campaign against Medicare -- scapegoating it for cuts to social services. Suddenly a public education advocate, he claimed that public health-care costs are soaring and devouring provincial budgets. Kenney stated that, "For some of the provinces, if they continue in that trajectory, there will be nothing left for education, for universities, for anything else."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Saskatchewan's Medical Care Insurance Act 1961

Medicare: A People's Issue

Throughout 1961, the proposed medical care plan remained the top political issue in Saskatchewan. To fulfill its promise of consultation, the government created the Advisory Planning Commission on Medical Care, mandated “to study and report upon a medical care insurance program for the province and on the public need in other fields of health.”

The former President of the University of Saskatchewan, Dr. W.P. Thompson, was invited to act as chair. It was an onerous job, made especially difficult by the attitude of the medical members of the committee. 49 briefs of more than 1,200 pages were submitted by individuals and groups from across the province. In September of 1961 the Committee produced an Interim Report which recommended:
  • Universal coverage for all residents.
  • Comprehensive benefits based on residence, registration and payment of personal premiums with additional finances to be drawn from general government revenues.
  • Utilization fees.
  • Fee-for-service payment.
  • The creation of a commission responsible to the government to administer the plan.
Despite continued opposition from the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Douglas government used the report as the basis of the Medical Care Insurance Act, which it passed in a special sitting of the legislature.

Ten days before the Act was to be given Royal assent, Douglas turned over the reins of government to the steady but less than charismatic former Minister of Education, W.S. Lloyd.

Douglas’s decades’ old dream of a universal medical care plan seemed complete as he left provincial politics to run for the national leadership of the newly-created New Democratic Party (NDP). The Act was set to become law on July 1, 1962. Two camps, the government in one and the doctors in the other, took uncompromising positions that would eventually lead to crisis and strike.

Click Above to Read

Passive-aggressive Tories tackle health funding

By Karl Nerenberg
December 20, 2011

In the 1960s, when Canada’s universal healthcare system first got underway, between 40 and 50 cents out of every dollar provinces spent on health care was federal. The rest came from the provinces’ own coffers.

Today the federal figure is around 21 per cent; the rest, nearly 80 per cent, is provincially collected money.

It is not the same for every province. For British Columbia, for instance, the federal contribution is less than 15 per cent. And the federal figures do not include equalization payments, of which some can be assumed to go to healthcare.

What is clear, though, is that there has been a fairly steady decline in federal participation in health funding over the years.

Why the Harper funding diktat endangers medicare

By Thomas Walkom
Tue Dec 20 2011

For medicare, the federal government’s new health financing ultimatum is a clear and deliberate step backward.

By scaling back cash contributions to provincial medicare plans, it will gradually and inevitably destroy Ottawa’s ability to enforce the Canada Health Act.

By tying these contributions to the vagaries of the overall economy, it will make it harder for provinces to forge long-term health-care strategies.

And by cutting back health spending during slump periods, it will remove money and jobs from health care precisely at those times when they are needed most.

Harper government attacks public health care

By James Clancy
December 20, 2011

"Once again, the Harper government has shown that it prefers to dictate rather than negotiate," said James Clancy, NUPGE National President.

"Their unilateral decision to cutback billions of dollars in health transfer payments will have serious negative consequences in terms of the accessibility and quality of health care across the country."

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) says the announcement by federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty on the Canada Health Transfer (CHT) further demonstrates the Harper government's disdain for democracy and a total lack of leadership on health care.

At a meeting of Finance Ministers from across the country, Flaherty announced that the federal government would extend the 6 per cent escalator clause, part of the 2004 Health Accord, for the CHT only until the 2016-17 fiscal year. After that, until at least 2024, annual increases in the CHT will be tied to nominal GDP growth.

Dr. Norman Bethune documentary

National Film Board of Canada

This feature documentary is a biography of Dr. Norman Bethune, the Canadian doctor who served with the loyalists during the Spanish Civil War and with the North Chinese Army during the Sino-Japanese War. In Spain he pioneered the world's first mobile blood-transfusion service; in China his work behind battle lines to save the wounded has made him a legendary figure.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fraser Institute report on wait times flawed

By Don McCanne, M.D.
Senior Health Policy Fellow
Physicians for a National Health Program
15 December 2011

A critique of Waiting Your Turn: Wait Times for Health Care in Canada - 2011 Report, by Bacchus Barua, Mark Rovere and Brett J. Skinner, Fraser Institute December 2011

"This edition of Waiting Your Turn indicates that waiting times for elective medical treatment have increased since last year. Specialist physicians surveyed across 12 specialties and 10 Canadian provinces report a total waiting time of 19.0 weeks between referral from a general practitioner and receipt of elective treatment." - Fraser Report

The Fraser Institute has released its 21st annual report on wait times for health care in Canada. This report is used widely to condemn Canada's reliance on their single payer medicare program for the financing of health care. It helps to fulfill the Fraser Institute's libertarian agenda of advocating for privatization of their health care system. Today's comment takes a critical look at this report.

The findings in the report are based on the solicited opinions of Canadian physicians. Questionnaires were sent to 10,737 of the 68,000 active Canadian physicians. Of these, 1,696 physicians responded (15.8% response rate). Distributing these responses amongst the 12 specialties and ten provinces results in single digit tallies for 63 percent of the categories, and often only one physician falling into a given category. For instance, only one specialist in internal medicine represented the views of all internists in the province of Prince Edward.

Finance Ministers Debate Health Care

By Adrienne Silnicki
Council of Canadians
December 19, 2011

Jim Flaherty, Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney, and provincial finance ministers are meeting in Victoria last night and today to discuss health care transfer funding. Although few details have emerged, Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan has said that it’s been made clear that the 6 per cent escalating transfer that was negotiated by the former Liberal Federal government will not be continued past 2016, despite Jim Flaherty’s April 9th election campaign promise that it would. Instead a variety of options have been suggested including tying funding to growth in the economy- which is currently forecasted at about two per cent per year. 

How poor nations prop up Canadian health care

Toronto Sun
Dec 18 2011

Dr. Isaac Odame
Consider it the great brain robbery. Canadians have for years been quietly stripping poor nations of a precious commodity — their doctors, nurses and other health professionals.

In fact, Canada is prominent among poachers of medical talent from other countries, especially from developing nations where this talent is desperately needed and in lamentably short supply. Other major offenders include the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia.

Exactly how much they gain, and what poor countries forfeit, is impossible to tally. But a new Canadian study manages to put a dollar figure on at least a portion of our windfall and the developing world’s loss. It’s a sobering result, one that cries out for more ways to repair the damage that we cause.

Commissioner on public service reform recommends nation-wide privatization.

Public Values
December 7, 2011

In a press conference at the Ontario Legislative building, the Ontario Health Coalition warned the McGuinty government not to accept recommendations that include cuts and privatization of hospital and health care services.

Don Drummond, a former bank executive appointed to head this government's Commission on Public Service Reform, has used the enhanced platform afforded him by McGuinty to become a spokesperson recommending health care privatization across Canada. In the last year alone, Drummond has been involved as an advisor, spokesperson and author of numerous reports on health care reform. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Stats make U.S.-style health care a tough sell

By Terry N. Champion
Edmonton Journal
December 18, 2011

Statistics for 2009 compiled by Harvard Medical School and the U.S. Census Bureau show that, in the insurance-dominated U.S. healthcare system, 45,000 Americans died because they had no health insurance; 922,819 Americans went bankrupt because of medical expenses; 50,700,000 Americans have no health insurance.

The comparable figures from the Canadian health-care system are zero, zero and zero.

Which health-care system would you rather have?

Americans have been frightened by insurance industry lobbyists into resisting universal governmentfunded health care for over 100 years, portraying Canadians as flocking south across the border to obtain proper medical care in the U.S.

We must counteract the lobbyists who are attempting to move our health care toward a system where those of us who are in good health would qualify for expensive insurance premiums while millions of our fellow citizens could end up with no health coverage at all.

And don't think our taxes would be reduced accordingly. The money would be spent elsewhere. Insurance company bureaucracy adds over 20 per cent to the cost of U.S. health care, with no value added. Tommy Douglas enunciated Canadian values when he said "people are more important than profits."

What can we do to preserve and improve our health-care system? Support organizations that are working on our behalf, such as Seniors United Now and Friends of Medicare. Seniors United Now has a documentary film, The Health Care Movie, that every Canadian should see. It was researched and produced by a Canadian-American couple.

And let our elected officials know that we want no part of U.S.-style health care.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

US Doctors Support OWS Because Wall Street Is Occupying Health Care

Physicians for a National Health Program

We support Occupy Wall Street because the private health insurance industry exemplifies the OWS movement’s central tenet: its unchecked corporate greed tramples human need.

We support OWS because economic and social inequalities make our patients sick. Low wages, high unemployment, inadequate education, unhealthy food, unaffordable housing, unsafe jobs, a polluted environment, and a lack of access to affordable health care breed death and disability.

We support OWS because health care is a human right. We reject a system that forces us to treat patients differently based on their insurance and the treatments they can “afford.”

We support OWS because we believe in evidence, and evidence shows us that profit-driven health care decreases access, raises costs and lowers quality. It’s unhealthy for the 99%; only a few corporate executives, bankers, and lobbyists benefit.

We support OWS because our political leaders, held hostage by corporate money, reject evidence-based health policies such as a single-payer reform that would save both lives and money.

We support OWS because the health care economy – like the overall economy – has ample resources to take care of 100%, but those resources are siphoned off by profit-driven corporations in the interest of the 1%.

We support OWS because we took an oath to do no harm, and our corrupt political and economic systems are harming us all.

We support OWS because we are hopeful that we can change our society

Friday, December 16, 2011

Let there be no blackout of health

Saskatchewan CCF
Circa 1942/43
Medicare: A People's Issue

A pamphlet published by the CCF in Saskatchewan leading up to their victory in 1944.

Universal health care: If Cuba can do it, why can’t the USA?

By Mike Lado
People's World
December 15 2011

What's Cuba got that we don't? A good universal health care system.

Despite the valiant attempt of the Affordable Care Act passed in March 2009 and signed into law by President Obama to fix health care, about 50 million Americans remain uninsured, and another 25 million remain under-insured, trapped in limited-benefit and high-deductible health plans.

There are also 26.5 million Americans with heart disease. There's an autism epidemic that affects 1 in 100 children being born. For many parents the treatments they need for their children aren't even covered by insurance. The poor cannot afford health care so they end up waiting until they are so sick they wind up in the emergency room driving up waits and costs for everyone through no fault of their own.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Romanow’s 50-year fight for medicare

For former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow, the Canadian health-care system speaks to Canadian values and cannot be treated as a commodity, writes Tim Harper

By Tim Harper
Toronto Star
Tue Dec 13 2011
Also read Roy's reminisces HERE.

Roy Romanow is 72, though he hardly looks it.

He has earned the right to sit this one out, but, of course, he can’t.

As the future of health care in Canada elbows its way onto centre stage in 2012, the former Saskatchewan premier will be marking 50 years of fighting for a publicly administered, single-payer health-care system in this country.

This is a man who drove Tommy Douglas across Saskatchewan on the NDP icon’s final provincial campaign.

Monday, December 12, 2011

'Sicker' Canadians most in need of health care, but cost a barrier for many: report

Huffington Post
December 12, 2011

Although the article below doesn't mention it, the information below clearly points to the need for a national pharmacare plan. - NYC.

Canadians with chronic conditions are frequent users of the health-care system, but a new report shows many experience considerable difficulty getting the medical treatment they need.

So-called sicker Canadians most of whom are age 50 or older have one or more of seven chronic conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, joint pain or arthritis, chronic lung problems such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and mental health problems such as depression or anxiety.

Those who are chronically ill are among the highest users of health services: they are more likely to be hospitalized, have surgery, visit emergency departments and take prescription medications.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Saskatchewan's Health Services Planning Commission, 1944–50

Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan

The Health Services Planning Commission (HSPC) was created in November 1944 to serve as a central health planning and advisory body to the new Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) government of T.C. Douglas. The CCF had come to power in 1944 with the intention of creating a comprehensive system of socialized health services in Saskatchewan. Under the leadership of Douglas and the HSPC, the new government was to realize much of its goal in its first term in office from 1944 to 1948.

The Commission had been one of the “recommendations for immediate action” made by Dr. Henry E. Sigerist, professor of Medical History at Johns Hopkins University and recognized expert in public health and “socialized medicine,” whom Douglas had recruited to conduct a review of health conditions in the province and to make recommendations that would serve as an outline for the government for future reform.

By 1944, Saskatchewan had already seen several innovations in Health Care such as municipal doctor and union hospital schemes, which collectively allowed a large number of people access to pre-paid hospital and medical care. These ideas, and others, had evolved over time as a result of local initiative, not of a central government plan. The Department of Public Health had focused primarily on public health activities and not on planning a comprehensive public health, medical and hospital scheme for the province.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Problem with Profit-Driven Health Care

Canadian Doctors for Medicare

What does the evidence say about private, for-profit health care? It’s not what you think.

Having more private, for-profit clinics reduces access to care

Private for-profit clinics drain the limited supply of doctors and other health professionals from the rest of the health care system, lengthening waiting lists and reducing access[1

Private for-profit clinics also use up needed resources scheduling unnecessary procedures, reducing the services available to other patients requiring medically necessary procedures.[2]

World Youth Study Medicine in Cuba


More than 20,000 youth from Latin American, African and Oceania countries are currently training in the Medical Sciences universities of all Cuban provinces.

The 2011-2012 school year officially began on Monday at the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM), located at the outskirts of Havana, with an enrollment of about 2,300 foreign students.

This is the 12th academic year of this institution, founded in 1999 by an initiative by the leader of the Revolution, Fidel Castro. Previously, the center graduated about 10,000 physicians.

“You, students, as Fidel Castro stated, have to be trained with the quality of our physicians, with a high scientific-technical, humanist, ethic and solidarity formation, ELAM Rector Juan Carrizo repeated to the new students.

According to Granma newspaper, after the earthquake that devastated Haiti in January 2010, about 250 volunteers from 28 countries trained in such educational center went there to assist that Caribbean people.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

History of Health: Why is it important?

By James Low
Executive Director
Museum of Health Care blog
September 2, 2011

Jane and John Smith born in Portsmouth Village, now a neighbourhood of Kingston, Ontario, in 1810 and 1812 respectively had a life expectancy of forty years.

Jane and John Jones born in Kingston in 2009 and 2011 respectively look forward to a life expectancy of eighty years.

What accounts for this striking difference?

Multiple, often interrelated, factors have contributed. Understanding the factors accounting for this transition identifies the health and health care issues that need to be protected in our health care system.

Canada’s health care system is affordable

But to make it sustainable, we need to change the way we deliver services
Troy Media
December 8, 2011

Recently the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) released the latest figures on the country’s health spending. It provides a cool analytic antidote to a heated political issue. Health costs are not out of control. And the report’s findings remind us that the real issues have little to do with money.

Almost every day some politician or pundit declares that provincial health-care spending is massively out of control, eroding government’s ability to fund everything else. Our roads are full of potholes, our kids can’t do long division, and it’s all the fault of a rapacious health-care system.

Health spending actually falling

Several reports have suggested that health spending will inexorably rise to 70 or even 80 per cent of provincial government program spending in the next 10 to 20 years. The CIHI graph of provincial health-care spending over time draws a very different picture from that portrayed in our public debate. Health spending was fairly steady at 33 per cent of program spending during the early and mid-1990s. After 1997, it rose rapidly to 39 per cent of program spending in 2003 before plateauing there until 2008. It has been falling since.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bungled trade deal will hurt health care system

NDP motion demands study of real impact of botched trade negotiations on health care costs

December 7, 2011

Canadians are concerned about the consequences of the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) for the public health care system and the ever-rising cost of prescription drugs.

Unfortunately, the Conservative government has allowed little study into the real impact of CETA on Canadian families.

New Democrat MPs on the committee, Health Critic Libby Davies (Vancouver East), Deputy Critic Anne Minh-Thu Quach (Beauharnois—Salaberry), MP Dany Morin (Chicoutimi—Le Fjord) and MP Djaouida Sellah (Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert), are demanding the Standing Committee on Health examine the impact of a potential Canada-EU free trade agreement. The MPs have presented a motion that will be tabled this afternoon.

“We know that a trade agreement promoting deregulation is a threat to our public health care system. If government procurement is included in this agreement, some health services may even be privatized,” said Davies.

“Since 2009, Conservatives have been negotiating a trade deal with the EU behind closed doors and have refused to disclose what it will cost Canadians,” said Brian Masse (Windsor West), the Official Opposition critic for International Trade. “Conservatives must release the details of the agreement and protect the interests and health of Canadians.”

Quach added she is concerned about the consequences of the agreement on prescription drug costs. “Europe wants to extend the length of drug patents by at least 3 years, which would increase the cost of drugs and delay the entry of generic drugs onto the market,” said Quach. “This will further drain already stretched health budgets.”

New Democrats are urging the Conservative members of the committee to agree to this study so Canadians can understand how this agreement will impact them and their health, before the agreement is signed.

Videos: Secure the Future of Medicare

Straight Goods

Highlights from "Secure the Future of Medicare: A Call to Care" organized by the Canadian Health Coalition.

A keynote address by Roy Romanov, Q.C, Chair of the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada and comments by several panelists about threats to Medicare - recorded by Samantha Bayard for Straight Goods News at the Chateau Laurier on November 30, 2011.

The Nerve! Saskatchewan private clinic director resigns

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Medical Director of Saskatchewan's new for-profit surgical clinic has resigned. It turns out he is ALSO the head of the Surgery Department at Regina General Hospital -- and has been for the last 11 years.

The brains behind the Health Region sees no conflict of interest.


But having the Director wear two hats in this situation is an obvious conflict of interest, Suzanne Posyniak, a spokesperson for the Canadian Union of Public Employees, told the CBC..

"How can you be responsible for ensuring that the hospital is doing the maximum number of surgeries in house, fully using all of its own infrastructure, and at the same time managing a for-profit clinic that needs business from the region to turn a profit?" Posyniak said.

"You could tell this story to anyone and they would roll their eyes and think 'Duh … of course this is a problem,'" Posyniak said.

With the Health Authority denying a conflict of interest in such an obvious case, I have to wonder if there are not more conflicts.

The private clinic still plans to start surgeries in February.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Health care, E.I. dominate Atlantic premiers conference

Atlantic Canada's premiers are calling on the federal government to increase health transfers, leave employment insurance alone and let more skilled immigrants come to Canada.

By QMI Agency
December 5, 2011

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale hosted P.E.I Premier Robert Ghiz, New Brunswick Premier David Alward and Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter at the 20th annual Council of Atlantic Premiers in St. John's on Monday morning.

Health care dominated the talks because the current federal-provincial deal expires in 2014. The feds will provide $27 billion to the provinces for health care this fiscal year, which covers about 20% of the provinces' health costs.

The premiers want the feds to increase that to 25%.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Swift Current Led the Way in Saskatchewan

Medicare: A People's Issue

The first region in Canada to combine public health with medical care, the Swift Current Health Region or Health Region #1, would play a key role in the development of Medicare in Saskatchewan.

The practices, experience and innovations developed there from the mid-1940s through the 1950s formed the basis of the provincial medicare legislation of 1961. This was a complete program of medical and hospital services. Payment to physicians was made on a fee-for-service basis.

Patients could choose the doctor they wanted and the system was administered by an independent nonpolitical committee. Beginning operation in July of 1946, the initiative for its formation came from the local level and was ratified by the voters of the region. In the subsequent years other innovations followed such as a comprehensive children’s dental program and the formation of the first Regional Hospital Council.

Why did it begin in Swift Current? A number of factors coalesced to make it the ideal area for medicare reform and experimentation. The 1944 election of the CCF government under the leadership of T.C. Douglas, created an environment where medicare reform was supported at the provincial level.

One of their major platforms was the implementation of a socialized medicine plan. In addition, the area had been hit hard by the drought and economic depression in the 1930s. This had led to a community heavily reliant on the municipal doctor system for the delivery of its medical care. When calls for a new hospital arose, the community looked to a cooperative solution.

Though the system was popular in the Swift Current area, it was met with trepidation elsewhere. A similar plan was easily defeated in 1955 when put to a vote in the Regina Rural and Assiniboia-Gravelbourg areas. The most vocal opponent was the Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons. The lines between the government and college were becoming deeper as time progressed. The confrontation would come to a head in the Doctors Strike of July 1962.

Health care not a ‘commodity’

By Roy Romanow
Toronto Star
Dec 03 2011

The following is an excerpt from a speech this week in Toronto by Roy Romanow, former premier of Saskatchewan and commissioner on the future of health care, to the Canadian Health Coalition:

Today, an overwhelming majority of Canadians believe in a vision of medicare that is rooted in our narrative as a nation — a vision that sees health care as a “public good” and a right of Canadian citizenship.

But there are others, with a different vision — one that sees health care as a commodity. One that believes that markets should determine who gets care, when and how.

That’s why, now more than ever, we need to engage and mobilize Canadians in the fight to secure and expand medicare.

Now, more than ever, we need to reaffirm the original vision of a truly comprehensive public health-care system that provides a continuum of services and includes a universal program of home care, long-term care and pharmacare.

We need to embrace comprehensive policy solutions that tackle root causes instead of surface symptoms; that bring about systemic changes instead of quick fixes; that promote long-term benefits, instead of short-lived gains.

We need to root ourselves and our work in the values that have shaped this great country: fairness, diversity, equity, inclusion, health, safety, economic security, democracy and sustainability.

Now, more than ever, is the time to recapture the moral and political strength to see ourselves in our own place, in our own time, informed by our own values, and within our own actual narrative, as an independent nation, worthy of the respect of a world that needs an even better Canada.

In doing so, we shall once again put our nation’s policies on track and resume the task of building an even greater Canada.

Fighting to Build Health Care

Canadian Autoworker's Union
November 30, 2011

CAW activists from right across Nova Scotia took part in a public rally to strengthen and extend Canada's Medicare system.

Assistant to the President Deb Tveit and Director of Health Care Katha Fortier joined in the Halifax rally, along with activists from a number of other unions, coalition partners, and concerned citizens on November 25.

The rally was held at the city's Victoria Park, across the street from where Canada's health ministers were meeting for first discussions on what the 2014 Health Accord should look like. The Accord sets the amount of money that will be transferred to the provinces for health care, and the conditions under which they will receive funding.

Tveit said that the outcome of these ongoing discussions will affect the Canadian health care system for years. "Recent polling indicates that 94 per cent of all Canadians support public solutions to strengthen Medicare and this Accord represents our opportunity to push this issue with the Harper Conservatives to expand our current system to include national pharmacare and continuing care outside of hospitals."

Speakers included Maude Barlow, Chair of the Council of Canadians, and Sean Meagher, Executive Director of Canadian Doctors for Medicare. Both argued that Medicare is sustainable and that we should use this opportunity to expand public services and clamp down on privatization, indicating that a public system always results in better patient outcomes.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Canadian Health Act


The Canada Health Act aims to ensure that all residents of Canada have access to necessary health care ona prepaid basis. The purpose of the Canada Health Act is to establish criteria and conditions in respect of
insured health services and extended health care services provided under provincial law that must be metbefore a full cash contribution may be made.


1. Public administration. The health insurance plan of a province/territory must be administered and operated on a non-profit basis by a public authority accountable to the provincial/territorial government.

2. Comprehensiveness. The plan must insure all medically necessary services provided by hospitals and physicians and, where permitted, services rendered by other health care practitioners.

3. Universality. The plan must entitle 100 percent of eligible residents to insured health services on uniform terms and conditions.

4. Portability. Residents are entitled to coverage when they move to another province/territory and when they travel within Canada or abroad (with some restrictions).

5. Accessibility . The plan must provide reasonable access to insured hospital and physician services on uniform terms and conditions. Additional charges to insured patients for insured services are not allowed. No one may be discriminated against on the basis of income, age, health status, etc.


1. Provision of information. Provincial/territorial governments are required by regulations to provide annual estimates and statements on extra-billing and user charges. They are also required to voluntarily provide an annual statement describing the operation of their plans as they relate to the criteria and conditions of the Act. This information serves as a basis for the Canada Health Act annual report.

2. Provincial recognition of federal contributions. Provincial/territorial governments are required to give public recognition of federal transfers.

Provisions on Extra-billing and User Charges

1. Extra-billing for an amount in addition to any amount paid or to be paid for an insured health service by the health care insurance plan of a province.

2. User charge for an insured health service that is authorized or permitted by a provincial health care insurance plan that is not payable, directly or indirectly, by the plan, but does not include any charge imposed by extra-billing.

Penalty Provisions

1. Mandatory financial penalty for extra-billing and user charges. Direct patient charges are subject to dollar-for-dollar deductions from federal transfer payments.

2. Discretionary financial penalty for non-compliance with the five criteria and two conditions. Financial penalties will reflect the gravity of the default.

Source: Health Canada, Canada Health Act Annual Report, 1997-98
Access the full Act HERE.