Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Prelude to a Strike

Medicare: A People's Issue

As Saskatchewan entered 1962, the positions dividing the protagonists in the Medicare debate had hardened to the point where reconciliation seemed a dim hope. The government stood behind the Medical Care Act and its universal government funded insurance plan. The College of Physicians and Surgeons refused to cooperate or negotiate until the act was changed.

The doctors claimed that the Act would give the government a monopoly on the purchase of medical care which would intern interfere with their freedom to give the best possible service to their patients. The College proposed that patients should be covered by private insurance companies and that the poor would have their premiums paid by the province. In an attempt to reach a compromise, the two sides met in April. The meetings ended in failure.

The month of May brought a new phase in the debate with both sides launching media campaigns. The government lauded the benefits of the universal plan while the doctors warned of a mass exodus of the health care professionals. Petitions and counter-petitions were circulated. Groups such as the Keep Our Doctors Committee (K.O.D.), the Free Citizens Association (F.C.A.) and the Committee for Medical Care (C.M.C) formed and held rallies throughout Saskatchewan.

The Council of the College of Physicians and Surgeons met with the government in a last ditch attempt to ward off the strike at the end of May. Though the government offered to make substantial compromises, they refused to acquiesce to the doctors' demand of suspending the Act’s July 1 implementation date.

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