Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan poised to break Canada Health Act, union claims

One of the largest unions representing workers in the health care sector claims that Saskatchewan is on the verge of violating the Canada Health Act with legislation that allows for MRIs by a private supplier.

CUPE represents thousands of public health care workers

Saskatchewan's plan to allow private MRI clinics is opposed by CUPE Saskatchewan, a large union that represents many public sector health workers. (John Rieti/CBC)

One of the largest unions representing workers in the health care sector claims that Saskatchewan is on the verge of violating the Canada Health Act with legislation that allows for MRIs by a private supplier.

According to CUPE Saskatchewan, the province's Bill 179 (which outlines how a private company may provide the diagnostic services of an MRI) could see clinics charge patients user fees.

CUPE said they believe private MRIs fall outside the federal government's legislation on health care, which is based upon a public delivery model.

"While privately funded MRIs are permitted in some provinces, in our opinion, the practice is unlawful under the Canada Health Act and fundamentally at odds with the most essential feature of Medicare, which is care according to need, not one's ability to pay," Steven Shrybman, a lawyer who provided an analysis of the issue to CUPE said Thursday.

CUPE's view of the issue was also supported by Regina doctor Sally Mahood, who expressed concern about what may happen when a private MRI is introduced.

"There is very clear evidence that, far from relieving pressures in the public system, offering a separate stream for the wealthy to jump the queue actually lengthens public wait lists," Mahood claimed. "Medical tests should be ordered in accordance with evidence-based guidelines about their usefulness and indications."

CUPE's Saskatchewan president, Tom Graham, said the union is opposed to private MRI legislation, and claimed it "will lead to the erosion of our public health care system."

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