Sunday, July 31, 2011

Allan Blakeney, Pioneer of Canadian Health Care, Dies at 85

New York Times
April 19, 2011

Allan Blakeney, the health minister of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan who helped start North America’s first tax-financed universal health care system in 1962, and was later the province’s premier, died Saturday at his home in Saskatoon. He was 85.

The Saskatchewan government said the cause was liver cancer.

In 1946, the government of Tommy Douglas, then Saskatchewan’s premier, enacted universal insurance coverage for hospitalization. Mr. Douglas’s successor, Woodrow Lloyd expanded the program in 1962 to include the costs of medical care provided by doctors.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Why America Needs Health Care Reform

Canada's Medicare System: Building on the legacy!

National Union of Public and General Employees

Tommy Douglas and the CCF: Health Care Achievements

Tommy Douglas Research Institute


1944-1948 – Premier Douglas assumed the role of Saskatchewan's Health Minister during the first term of his government, during which time the first steps towards Medicare were taken. New policies and building projects were based partly on the recommendations of the new Health Services Planning Commission. Major innovations included:

  • Free health care for pensioners,
  • Free psychiatric hospital treatment for the mentally ill, as well as the construction of Mental Health Clinics,
  • Free cancer treatment for those in need,
  • The creation of the first comprehensive health services region,
  • Construction of new health care facilities,
  • The creation of the College of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan,
  • Air Ambulance to transport those in rural areas to central or regional hospitals.

January 1, 1947 – Douglas created Canada’s first universal and compulsory hospital insurance program – the Universal Hospital Services plan. It was the first program in North America to provide complete benefits to all residents. The legislation offered:

  • Expanded hospital facilities (21 new hospitals over 4 years),
  • X-rays and lab services,
  • Common drugs and other hospital services,
  • Compensation for a share of out of province medical costs,
  • With payment for the insurance at a rate of $5 per person to a maximum of $30 per family.

April 25,1959 – Douglas announced his government’s revolutionary intention to introduce a universal and comprehensive medical care insurance program for the province. Nearing the end of his government’s fourth term in office, and with Prime Minister Diefenbaker’s newfound willingness to share in the cost of any universal health plan developed by a provincial government, the time was right for Douglas to proceed with his vision. His plan, however, was strongly opposed by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan, which not only governed and upheld the competency of the province’s medical professionals, but also protected the interests of the doctors.

June 8, 1960 – Douglas and his CCF Party’s overwhelming election victory represented the public approval necessary to bring the universal health insurance plan to fruition. Medicare, the revolutionary part of their election platform, was founded upon the following three major themes:

  • A public system was necessary because a universal and comprehensive healthcare package would require citizens of the province to pay extremely high private insurance premiums,
  • A lot of public money was needed to fund such an extensive program,
  • The largesse of the program would require the government to be accountable for it’s management.

November 17, 1961 – Saskatchewan Medical Care Insurance Act
The Act, put into legislation by new CCF Premier Woodrow S. Lloyd mere weeks after replacing the departed Tommy Douglas, gave the Medical Care Insurance Commission the power to run the new universal insurance system. In 1962 when the program came into effect, the premiums that replaced the payments for private insurance were $12 per individual per year or $24 for families. All Saskatchewanians would collectively pay for those who were sick, and all could be reassured that a terrible illness in the family wouldn’t lead to bankruptcy.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Norman Bethune – Book Review

By Anne Cimon
Montreal Serai
June 24, 2009

Norman Bethune
By Adrienne Clarkson
Penguin Canada

At a conference on April 15, 2009 at Concordia University, Adrienne Clarkson, former governor general of Canada and now biographer of Norman Bethune, suggested that one of the reasons the internationally-known surgeon, medical inventor, visionary and humanitarian might not be recognized to the degree he should be in Canada is because he became a member of the Communist Party in 1935. Certainly this is a well-timed biography of Norman Bethune as it coincides with the seventieth anniversary of his death which is being celebrated in the city of Montreal with special events and exhibitions.

This volume is part of a series entitled Extraordinary Canadians edited by John Ralston Saul. He is the husband of Clarkson and their collaboration has turned out a brilliant book. In his Introduction, Saul states there is a need for this series whose aim is to “produce a grand sweep of the creation of modern Canada.” Other “ethical leaders” chosen are as diverse as Lester B. Pearson, Big Bear, L.M. Montgomery, and René Lévesque.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

NHS in the UK celebrates 63 years

By Sarah Williams
5th July 2011

The creation of the NHS on this day in 1948 was not just one of the greatest achievements in our history but also a massive stride forward in the provision and distribution of public healthcare. It was the first time anywhere in the world that completely free healthcare had been made available to all regardless of ability to pay and it is that element that remains jealously observed by nations such as the USA today.

Before the NHS, public health provision was patchy at best and was determined to a great extent by your ability to pay, where you lived and whether you were a man or a woman or a child. While poor workers were given free healthcare, their wives and children were generally not, reflecting the fact that the priority was not the patient, but the patient’s productivity within the labour market.

Women and children were not “making money” and so were not prioritised. This resulted in approximately 1 in 20 babies dying before their 1st birthday. Although there were altruistic doctors providing their services for free to the poor in places, there was no imperative for them to do so. As a result they were always going to be doomed to only scratch the surface of health inequality.
Had it not been for the outbreak of World War 2 forcing experienced medics to see the situation more directly and produce documentary evidence of their observations, the political movement to reform hospitals may never have got as far as the creation of the NHS.

But what of the NHS today, 63 years after Anuerin Bevan managed to successfully argue for his new NHS to be available, free at the point of need and provided to 100 per cent of the population? 

Patient satisfaction with the NHS is at an all-time high.

The Commonwealth funds ranking of health systems performance in 2007 which measured a number of factors including quality, equity and safety ranked the UK at number 1 (the USA’s mainly privatised and market driven system ranked last).

As a percentage of GDP, even after the great increase in NHS spending undertaken by the last government, the UK still spends the least on healthcare in comparison to 8 other developed countries including the USA, (spending the most), France, Germany and Australia.

Currently it would seem, we spend less and get more.

No one in the NHS would dispute the need to adapt and change, and in physiotherapy we are constantly finding new and innovate ways to meet patients’ needs in the difficult financial climate.

But despite the Government’s recent listening exercise on its controversial proposals for the health service, our message is clear: “The NHS as we know and love it is still at risk,” Phil Gray, the chief executive of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, has said.

Flying Together: CACHCA

Canadian Alliance of Community Health Centre Associations

CineFocus Canada short film telling the story of Canada's Community Health Centres (CHCs). CHCs are a key component of the Second Stage of Medicare and a health system solution for all Canadians.

Four Precursors of Medicare in Saskatchewan

CBMH/BCHM, Volume 26:2 2009

T. C. Douglas, on assuming power in June 1944 as the first social democratic premier in North America, began working in a step-like pattern as finances permitted, toward his goal of eventual province-wide Medicare. Douglas and his team were able to build on the success of bold initiatives already in place in the Depression-scarred rural municipalities of Pittville, Miry Creek, Webb, and Riverside.

These municipalities developed medical and hospital plans that offered residents comprehensive coverage with freedom of choice of doctor. Built on idealism, prairie pragmatism and tenacity, these formative health plans served not only as models, but provided the leadership required during the creation and early years of Swift Current Health Region #1. Key figures such as Bill Burak, Carl Kjorven, Stewart Robertson, and Charles Haydon brought experience, depth, and ambition to the task at hand.

Envisioned as simply a demonstration region by the Saskatchewan government, HR #1 achieved more: a seamless integration of preventative medicine with medical care, combined with a sense of local empowerment.

Read more HERE.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Video: The fight for medicare in Saskatchewan

National Film Board of Canada

CLC submission to the Romanow Health Care Commission

Canadian Labour Congress
December 2001

The Canadian Labour Congress and its 2.5 million affiliated members believe that the attainment of the highest standard of health is a fundamental human right. In order to achieve that right, Canadian citizens must have equitable access to health care services along with other initiatives which promote good health. Included in the factors necessary for good health are access to decently paid jobs, safe and healthy workplaces, a clean environment, freedom from discrimination, and a variety of public programs which broadly promote economic and social security.

Commissioner Roy Romanow called Medicare a ‘magnificent creation of citizens and governments,’ a characterization with which the CLC agrees. The labour movement played a role in supporting the establishment of Medicare because labour leaders of the day recognized the immense contribution good health and equal access to health care services would make to the living standards of working people, indeed, of all Canadians. Labour leaders today affirm the labour movement’s commitment to a national system of  public health care, governed by the Canada Health Act, with services delivered on a nonprofit basis within the broad public sector.

The labour movement strongly believes that health care is a public good, not a commodity, making access to health care a right of citizenship, not merely an entitlement. Therefore, for-profit health care is completely incompatible with these principles, and with core values historically held by Canadians – compassion, sharing, dignity, fairness, equality, and honesty.

Read more HERE.

US Labour Celebrates 46 Years of Medicare

Let’s all celebrate Medicare’s birthday

By Lee J. Price for the Gainesville Sun
July 27, 2011

Republican and Democrats alike are swarming at the opportunity to cut government programs under the guise of “balancing the budget,” and everyone’s eyes are on Social Security and Medicare.

The problem is that Social Security hasn’t contributed a dime to the federal deficit. And Medicare runs more efficiently than private insurance while improving the lives of seniors.

I should know; I’m alive today because of Medicare, alive because of government medicine.

The First Ten Years: Saskatchewan's Community Clinics

By Dennis Gruending

Two black telephones sitting in a bare room of the third floor of Saskatoon's old Avenue Building was hardly an auspicious beginning for two doctors and a small group ofcitizens to pioneer the community clinic on that warm, gusty morning of July 3, 1962, armed with only their medical bags, doctors Joan Witney-Moore and Margaret Mahood settled into''a new venture in health care" .

Executive members of the fledgling Community Health Services Association (CHSA) went scavenging for equipment. They found folding tables at the Union Centre and hauled them back. Covered with mattresses, they became examining tables.  The doctors were busy until midnight. 

Events in 1962 precipitating the opening of community clinics had . provoked deep and emotional rifts in Saskatchewan, grabbed head¬lines and filled newspaper columns throughout North America.

The Strike 

On July 1, 1962 a majority of Saskatchewan's 725 practising physicians went on strike opposing the CCF government's introduction ofthe first universal, tax-financed, medical care insurance plan in North America.

Saskatchewan Premier T. C. Douglas, speaking in a 1959 provincial by-election, announced his government's intention to introduce the plan, fulfilling a promise made before the CCF rise to power in 1944. "The Premier had fired the first volley."

Read this book HERE. (large PDF, will take a few minutes to download).

Or read the Ussuu flip page book below.

Emmett Hall: Establishment Radical

Dennis Gruending published a biography of Emmett Hall in 1985. Mr. Hall was a Supreme Court judge but is best known for leading the royal commission that recommended medicare for Canada. Dennis revised and updated the book in 2005 and spoke about Hall at the Ottawa Public Library in November.

Dennis Gruending

Many people have asked me why I chose to write a book about Emmett Hall. I did so because Mr. Hall has had a greater impact on this country – and a greater impact on the lives of millions of Canadians – than almost anyone that I can think of.

The late journalist Walter Stewart that sums up Hall’s contributions nicely: “A number of crucial factors have gone into making Canada the nation that it is today,” Walter said. “The Rockies, the St. Lawrence River, and Emmett Hall.”

Hall sat on the Supreme Court of Canada for 10 years. He stood alone against eight of his brethren in 1967 when he insisted that Steven Truscott had not received a fair murder trial and should be awarded a new one. The Truscott case has not gone away – far from it. Thirty-five years after Truscott was released from prison, the federal minister of justice believes that a miscarriage of justice may well have occurred and Truscott’s case is being reviewed.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The pros and cons of medicare: CBC 1962

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
July 22, 1962

The opposing sides in Saskatchewan's Doctors Strike are split by differing philosophies on the benefits of centralized medicine. The doctors, led by H.D. Dalgleish and E.W. Barootes of the Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons, say government controlled health care threatens both their profession's freedom and the individual rights of the province's residents. Saskatchewan's CCF government (Premier Woodrow Lloyd), however, believes the public good can only be upheld by replacing private interests with a central, universal system.

Watch the CBC video HERE.

Morbid Symptoms: Current Healthcare Struggles

Colin Leys
The Bullet
November 20, 2009

Last year, Leo Panitch and Colin Leys brought out the 2010 annual volume of the Socialist Register, Morbid Symptoms: Health Under Capitalism, published by Merlin Press in London, Monthly Review Press in the U.S. and Fernwood Books in Canada

Socialist Register 2010 

The book provides a path-breaking assessment of health under capitalism, providing a systematic account of the antagonistic relationship between capitalism and human bodies, of how modern healthcare has been deeply penetrated by neoliberal capitalism, and the ways in which healthcare workers, activists and socialists are struggling and pursuing alternative paths of solidarity in human health.

Socialist Project recently asked Greg Albo to interview Colin Leys about the book and about current healthcare struggles.

SP: Colin, the latest Socialist Register, Morbid Symptoms: Health Under Capitalism, is gaining great accolades from health activists and practitioners, and from sections of the Left that have not traditionally been focussed on health. How did you and Leo come to focus on this issue as important for a Register audience? And how does it fit within your personal evolution as a Left intellectual in terms of your long-standing concerns with states and development in the ‘third world,’ especially Africa, on the one hand and states and parties in the advanced capitalist world, especially Britain, on the other?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Road Not Taken

The 1945 Health Proposals and Physician Remuneration in Saskatchewan

Volume 26:2 2009

Click image above to read leaflet
The instrumental role of the Saskatchewan Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) government of 1944-64 in the development of Canadian Medicare has overshadowed the interpretations of many historians
that the universal medical services plan introduced in Saskatchewan in 1962 was not what the CCF had intended when it first came to power in 1944. In his classic study of the Saskatchewan CCF, Seymour Martin Lipset states that the “party leaders originally envisaged a medical system in which all doctors would work on a salaried basis….”

Frequently based on Lipset’s work, subsequent historical accounts of the establishment of Saskatchewan and Canadian Medicare often cite a Saskatchewan CCF commitment to a salaried medical service. The 1962 doctors’ strike has also overshadowed what existing historical accounts of the step-by-step development of Saskatchewan Medicare from 1944-62 indicate was a less dramatic, but equally formative, conflict concerning physician remuneration in 1945. In early 1945 the government’s Health Services Planning Commission (HSPC) devised a medical services plan for rural Saskatchewan that envisaged the expansion and development of the existing municipal doctor system into a salaried general practitioner service. Existing accounts maintain that Premier Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas (1904-1986) and his cabinet considered implementing the HSPC proposals despite the opposition of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan (SCPS), but in negotiations during 1945 Douglas, in C. David Naylor’s words, “gave way” to the medical profession.

This article seeks to determine why the Douglas government did not follow the HSPC 1945 recommendations for a salaried medical scheme.

Read article HERE.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Roots of the Medicare Crisis

By Ken Collier
Briarpatch magazine
May 3, 2006

“Medicare’s history provides us with fertile ground upon which to consider opportunities for improving and expanding public health care.”

WHILE ALBERTA STAGES PROVOCATIONS aimed at privatizing at least part of medicare, the rest of Canada watches and wonders whether provincial programs elsewhere may meet a similar fate. Much argument is made about how to defend medicare, how to keep it public, how to cure ills such as long waiting times and uneven distribution of resources. This debate falls unevenly and haphazardly across the country, usually in response to some external event such as the Quebec Supreme Court rulings on timely access to treatment.

In these circumstances, medicare could very easily become a casualty of the reactive, defensive nature of this debate. No political party has stepped forward to propose anything much beyond defending existing health programs.

Merely defending public medicare, however, is a very limited (and limiting) goal. Medicare’s history provides us with fertile ground upon which to consider opportunities for improving and expanding public health care in bold and innovative ways.

Moving Medicare Forward - A Health Care Message To Canadians

Wolf Sun Videos

Health care experts send a message to Canadians and politicians about expanding Medicare for better health and lower costs.

Saskatoon: The birthplace of medicare

Saskatoon Community Clinic

The Guru and the Godfather: Henry Sigerist, Hugh MacLean, and the Politics of Health Care Reform in 1940s Canada

Hannah Professor of the History of Medicine, Queen's University,
CBMH/IBCHM I Volume 9: 1992

Dr. Hugh MacLean
In September 1944, Henry E. Sigerist (1891-1957), historian of medicine from Johns Hopkins University, conducted a survey of health services in Saskatchewan for Premier T. C. Douglas and his newly elected CCF government. His brief report became the basis for legislation that enacted Canada's first free hospitalization plan. The recommendations seem to have been prompted by Dr. Hugh MacLean (1871-1958), a relatively unknown surgeon who practised in Saskatchewan for over 30 years. MacLean had observed how the economic Depression resulted in inadequate medical care and he became an ardent supporter of "socialized medicine."

Based on interviews with those who witnessed the events and on the personal papers of Sigerist and MacLean, this article explores the contributions of these two physicians to the Canadian health care system.

Read article HERE (pdf).

Friday, July 22, 2011

Video: The Saskatchewan Doctor's Strike, 1962

Next Year Country

Canada's universal health care system was born in 1962 in Saskatchewan., but it was almost defeated before it began. Video includes archival footage. In two parts.

Swimming into Darkness

Book Review: Swimming into Darkness by Gail Helgason, Coteau Books

Reviewed by Jeffrey Canton 
Quill and Quire
December 2001 issue

It’s July 1962 and Thora Sigurdson isn’t enjoying being 13. She wants to be part of the in-crowd at West Beach, attaching herself to the popular Krywulak girls, but she doesn’t want to be disloyal to her bookish best friend, Gretchen McConnell. Further marring what should have been an idyllic summer is the Saskatchewan doctors’ strike, which is tearing apart the community. When one of the Krywulak girls loses her leg as a result of poor medical treatment, surface tensions explode and Thora finds herself caught up in a devastating tragedy. More than 20 years later, Thora, now an archeologist, finds herself grappling with the ghosts of that summer.

Gail Helgason covers a great deal of ground in Swimming into Darkness, her first novel. The book not only explores the emotionally troubled waters of the doctors’ strike – when Saskatchewan doctors closed their offices to protest having to bill fees through the newly created Medical Care Insurance Commission, a precursor to the national Medicare system – but also delves into the rich history of the province’s Icelandic settlers. One of the novel’s subplots focuses on the life and times of an Icelandic-Canadian poet based in part on the real-life Stephan Stephansson.

Moving fluidly back and forth between past and present, Helgason thoughtfully recreates the world of 13-year-old Thora. Helgason is particularly deft at mirroring teenagers’ muddled sense of themselves.

Readers will likely be more impressed with Thora’s archeological work than with her involvement with poet Markus Olafsson. Helgason breezes over the connection between Thora and her poet – a story that could have been just as powerful as that of the doctors’ strike, minus the political complexity.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Working for Medicare

CBMH/BCHM.  Volume 26:2 2009

A long time promoter and political worker for Medicare realized that the first steps toward universal Medicare could be best met within the Community Clinics where Salaried Physicians worked in a team with other Health Professionals to look after the needs of the community.

I lived during the hungry thirties on a farm on the edge of the Dust Bowl. Being the seventh child in a family of ten, I learned the advantages and disadvantages of being poor.

I joined the RCAF Women’s division when I became of age. I was able to go to the University of Guelph and graduate as a chef to serve in the air force for three years. During that time I became aware that there were no shortages of anything. Why did it take a war to make this happen?

After the war, I came home to find the CCF under T. C. Douglas was the Government of Saskatchewan. Their policy was to improve conditions and to make medical care available to all regardless of their abilityto pay.

Sustainability of Health Care: Myths and Facts

Canadian Health Coalition
Medicare Privatization


“Opponents of Medicare claim that public health care is ‘Fiscally Unsustainable’ and that the only viable solution is a shift to more private coverage. Bluntly, this is a lie.”

-— Robert G. Evans, O.C., Ph.D. (Economics) Harvard

By the Numbers

4% to 5%
170.8 Billion Dollars

Public health care is sustainable

The facts show that public health care is sustainable, and that the real driver of increases in health care spending comes from private health services not covered by Medicare, and from inappropriate use of expensive services. An “adult debate” on the sustainability of public health care must start from who and what drives health care spending. As Canadians, we value our public health care system. In fact, a recent poll showed that almost 90% of Canadians support public solutions to problems in the health care system and that health care is the most important national issue. In the words of Roy Romanow: “Medicare is as sustainable as we want it to be.

Woodrow Lloyd and Medicare

Making Medicine
A History of Health Care in Canada

Woodrow Lloyd and Tommy Douglas
Born in Webb, Saskatchewan, Woodrow Stanley Lloyd (1913–1972) was a teacher and politician who succeeded Tommy Douglas as Premier of Saskatchewan in 1961. Lloyd began his teaching career in 1933, became active in the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation and was its President from 1941 to 1944. In 1944, Lloyd successfully ran for the provincial Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) in Biggar, Saskatchewan, the constituency that he would represent until his retirement in 1971.

Premier Douglas appointed Lloyd as Minister of Education, making him the youngest Cabinet minister in Saskatchewan’s history. In this post, Lloyd successfully amalgamated over 5,000 school boards into 56 Larger School Units, giving students access to better facilities and specialized teaching. In 1960, Douglas appointed him as Provincial Treasurer. As Douglas’s successor, Lloyd implemented Saskatchewan’s medical care insurance plan in 1962, despite opposition from the medical profession, other provincial parties and “Keep Our Doctors” Committees. Although the doctors went on strike on July 1, 1962, Lloyd’s commitment to medicare and to resolving the dispute with dignity was successful and the plan was implemented.

Lloyd’s resolution of the Saskatchewan doctors’ strike showed the rest of Canada that publicly funded, accessible medical services could not be blocked by the private goals of the medical profession.

The Hospital Employees’ Union Strike and the Privatization of Medicare

By Benjamin Isitt and Melissa Moroz
International Labor and Working-Class History, 71 (Spring 2007)

In April 2004, the Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU) waged an illegal strike that mobilized sections of British Columbia’s working class to the brink of a general sympathetic strike. Influenced by BC’s class-polarized political culture and HEU’s distinct history, the 2004 strike represents a key moment of working-class resistance to neoliberal privatization.

HEU was targeted by the BC Liberal government because it represented a bastion of militant, independent unionism in a jurisdiction that appeared overripe (from the neoliberal standpoint) for a curtailment of worker rights and a retrenchment of public-sector employment. HEU also represented a direct barrier, in the language of its collective agreements and collective power of its membership, to the privatization of health services and dismantling of Medicare.

The militant agency of HEU members, combined with anger generated by a constellation of social-service cutbacks, inspired rank-and-file workers and several unions to defy collective agreements and embrace sympathetic strike action. This revealed differentiation in the strategy and tactics of BC’s labor leadership, and enduring sources of solidarity in labor’s ranks.

Read HERE (0.1 MB PDF)

"The First Fight for Medicare" - SFL

Next Year Country

Below is a short booklet published by the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour following the historic battle for medicare in Saskatchewan. It summarizes the events of 1962 and was distributed throughout Canada and internationally.

The labour movement was aware of the historic importance of this accomplishment and wanted to share its lessons with the broader labour and social movements.

The Saskatchewan Doctor's Strike, 1962

By Gregory P. Marchildon
Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan 

In July 1962, doctors in Saskatchewan began a province-wide general strike that marked the peak of a conflict between organized medicine and its allies against the government’s Medicare bill. One of the great crucibles of provincial history, the issues surrounding the strike divided communities and even families. Since it led a national debate on the merits of universal health insurance, interest in the strike went far beyond the province, and for three weeks national and foreign media focused on the strike in Saskatchewan.

Canada: Doctors on Strike, TIME magazine retro

Time magazine
Friday, Jul. 13, 1962

Some strikes no one wins, and a doctors' strike is plainly one of them. Last week, refusing to practice under a socialized medical insurance plan enacted by the Saskatchewan legislature, two-thirds of the province's 900 doctors locked up their offices and went off on vacation. Rather than bow to the government, the doctors gave free emergency care at 34 hospitals —but left behind only one practicing physician for every 3,000 citizens.

The shock of not having the family doctor at the other end of the telephone was abruptly brought home on the first day of the strike. When Mrs. Vicky Derhousoff put her nine-month-old son Carl to bed in their home at Usherville, he was running a fever. Next morning the fever was higher. Peter Derhousoff tried to phone the doctors in nearby Preeceville, was told that both were on vacation. A nurse at the Preeceville Hospital told him to take the baby to Yorkton, 91 miles away. On the road, says Derhousoff, "I began to realize it was a race with death." Three miles from Yorkton, the baby went limp in his mother's arms. Derhousoff tried mouth-to-mouth breathing, but the baby was dead on arrival at the hospital.

Dianne Norton on US Healthcare

Dianne Norton
(Dianne is the daughter of former Saskatchewan Premier Woodrow Lloyd)
The Guardian
14 August 2009

Woodrow Lloyd
In the summer of 1962 we awoke to find the word "Commie" scrawled in bright red paint across the front of our family home and my father, Woodrow Lloyd, branded a "murderer". His "sin" was to lead the Saskatchewan government, which was trying to introduce the first "socialised" health scheme in North America. How little has changed in 47 years. ('Evil and Orwellian' – America's right turns its fire on NHS, 12 August).

While the medical establishment in Canada was quite capable of generating its own propaganda – doctors would strike (they did), leading to the necessity of importing medics branded by one newspaper as "the garbage of Europe" – it was aided and abetted by professional bodies from south of the border, which financially backed the anti brigade as well as distributing leaflets designed to terrify the populace.

The government would use its powers, they claimed, to legalise abortion and mercy killing, and everyone would have to no choice but to accept the doctor allocated to them by the government. Doctors insisted that, under the plan, government would control all aspects of their practices and no doctor would be allowed to practise outside the plan – all untrue.

Women were particularly targeted with stories about threats to their unborn children not dissimilar to Sarah Palin's vision of "death panels". Families and communities throughout the province were riven apart as people took sides with a bitterness that lingered on for years. Two-thirds of the province's doctors declared their intention to strike on 1 July, but help was at hand in the form of scores of British doctors, who flew in and began establishing community clinics, with the help of supportive locals, in towns and cities throughout the province.The final act was conducted by the eccentric and determined Lord Stephen Taylor, a member of the British Labour party, who had earned his peerage for the vital role he had played in the design and implementation of the UK's National Health Service.

Taylor hammered out a settlement between the doctors and the government that was to lay the cornerstone of "socialised" medicine throughout Canada. Within a very few years, every province in Canada benefited from its own brand of Medicare. Ask any Canadian what makes them different from Americans and they will cite with pride our Medicare system. The wedge that the American medical establishment so feared was well and truly driven into the continent that summer. It's sincerely to be hoped that President Obama can follow where Saskatchewan led.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Privilege and Policy: A History of Community Clinics in Saskatchewan

By Stan Rands

Medicare posts from NYC

Next Year Country

Below are links to posts on medicare previously published on the NYC blog. Click on title to view.

Douglas bio also medicare history 

Dr. Harper’s New and Improved Medicare 

My Experience in the Medicare Battle and the Woods Commission

CBMH/BCHM / Volume 26:2 2009 / p. 538-541

In the 1960-62 period of the Medicare debate, I was still a student at the College of Law at the University of Saskatchewan. Like the province as a whole, the campus community was sharply divided over Medicare.

Some of the divisions sprang from pure political forces of difference; others feared change from the known to the unknown; and still others, favoured choice and competition over public payment and delivery of healthcare (a political, but also a philosophical divide). When Premier Tommy Douglas came to campus during this period to explain and defend his policy, the meeting room—at the upper level of the student union building– was overflowing down the stairwell and to the lower floors. By that time, I had already decided I would support the CCF, and Medicare reflected an important aspect of the party’s political philosophy.

As I chaired that raucous meeting, my convictions were not so strong as to be apprehensive about the student reactions—pushed by all the reasons I’ve stated and inflamed by fear engendered by the statements of the doctors, the Liberal party and the KOD.

The Struggle to Implement Medicare

Witnesses to Medicare in Saskatchewan: Medicare Workshop at the University of Saskatchewan — Wednesday, 20 May 2007
Allan Blakeney reminisces on the public relations battle launched by the Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons, and fuelled by most local media, when the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) government passed legislation in 1961 to deliver on their election promise of a province-wide single-payer medical care insurance plan, the provincial forerunner of Medicare in Canada. Blakeney details the major events leading to the doctors’ strike and recalls the role of some major players on both sides of the conflict. Blakeney highlights strategies conceived by the CCF to cope with the potential and realized eventualities of the doctors’ strike.

The Saskatchewan provincial election of 1960 was fought on the issue of introduction of a single-payer type of medical care insurance in Saskatchewan. It was a bitterly fought campaign, the most bitter that I have experienced in my eight campaigns, and in three or four other election campaigns when I was not a candidate, but which I followed with interest. What made it so hotly contested was the intervention of the organized medical profession. Operating under the name of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, they spent more money on electronic and print media than any political party. Their campaign was aimed against the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) government of Saskatchewan.

Medicare: A People's Issue

Next Year Country

One of the best websites for information on the struggle for medicare in  Saskatchewan is the Saskatchewan Council of Archives and Archivists website "Medicare: A People's Issue".

It is best viewed with Internet Explorer  as some tabs don't work well in other browsers.

Link to site HERE.

July 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of medicare in Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan led the way for medicare in Canada when it passed the Saskatchewan Medical Care Insurance Act on November 17, 1961, and after two delays became effective on July 1, 1962.

This blog will be posting articles and information on the historic battle that was fought in Saskatchewan to implement medicare.

In particular, this blog will be focusing on the "friends and foes" of medicare...the forces that fought for it and those vested interests that opposed it.

Posts on medicare battles and privatization today will connect old fights with new ones but still the same foes.

Please contact NYC at if you have contributions to make to the blog.

- Next Year Country