Union Asks Federal Minister of Health to Review Wall Government’s MRI Legislation

REGINA – The Canadian Union of Public Employees Saskatchewan has sent a letter to the federal Minister of Health, the Honourable Jane Philpott, requesting a review of the Wall government’s Bill 179, permitting private user-pay MRI facilities.

The letter to Minister Philpott follows on the heels of news that the Saskatchewan Medical Association, which represents over 90 per cent of Saskatchewan physicians, expressed strong opposition to the legislation at an October 28 meeting with Saskatchewan’s Minister of Health Dustin Duncan.The letter to Ottawa from CUPE Saskatchewan President Tom Graham states: “It is our understanding that [this] legislation violates the Canada Health Act both by allowing fees to be charged for medically necessary procedures and by undermining the fundamental principal of universal access to health care.”

On October 29, the union held a press conference with Regina family doctor Sally Mahood and legal expert Steven Shrybman, in whose legal opinion Bill 179 violates the Canada Health Act.

The Saskatchewan Medical Association, representing “the collective view of the medical profession in Saskatchewan,” has called the legislation “hasty,” noting that private user-pay MRI clinics do not appear to reduce wait times or improve patient care in provinces where they exist. The association’s briefing concludes with a call for a “strong publicly funded health care system where access to medical care is based on need and not the ability to pay.”

Graham’s letter to the federal minister requests that she review the provincial legislation to see if it violates the Canada Health Act and that if it does that she instruct the Government of Saskatchewan to comply with the Act. “In his Ministerial Mandate Letter to the new Minister of Health, Prime Minister Trudeau has expressed a commitment to protecting and renewing Canada’s public health care system. Our respectful request is in keeping with this mandate,” comments Graham.