Saskatchewan could see a clawback in the amount of health care dollars the province receives if the Liberals win the federal election.
The issue, according to a Liberal Party spokesperson, is private MRI clinics.
“Unlike Erin O’Toole and the Conservative Party, a Liberal government will continue to defend this country’s publicly funded health care system,” the Liberal spokesperson said in a statement to Global News on Tuesday.
“Consistent with the Diagnostic Services Policy, if the patient charges in Saskatchewan are not eliminated, a clawback will occur.”
Under the policy, provinces and territories are expected to report on patient charges for medically necessary diagnostic services in December 2022 for any patient charges which occurred during 2020-21.
This includes private-pay MRI clinics, which Saskatchewan moved to in February 2016.
The comments drew swift reaction from Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, who said Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has not threatened other provinces with clawbacks for operating private MRI clinics.
“This includes private MRI clinics that operate within the Liberal leader’s hometown of Montreal,” Moe said in an emailed statement to Global News.
“It is disappointing that the Liberal leader is seeking to politicize healthcare by only now taking issue with this innovative practice during the campaign, seemingly to distract from real issues that should be discussed during an election that he called.”
Conservative party leader Erin O’Toole voiced his support for continuing a mix of private and public systems across the country, saying it gives Canadians more choice with their healthcare options.
Canada’s NDP though, called out the province for violating the Canada Health Act — and Trudeau for allowing it to continue despite campaign promises.
“Saskatchewan has been violating the Canada Health Act with private MRIs for years — and yet Justin Trudeau has done nothing to crack down on it or defend Canada’s public health care system in the province where it was first envisioned,” a federal NDP spokesperson said in a statement to Global News Tuesday.
Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili also condemned the province’s continued use of a mixed private and public system for MRIs because of its inefficiencies.
“Frankly, the Liberal governments (have said) they’re rattled about this a few times,” Meili said while addressing media Tuesday. “I wish they’d actually follow through. There’s zero reason to have a situation where we’ve got some people jumping the queue and making others have to wait longer for essential diagnostic imaging and surgery.”
Under the Saskatchewan model, private MRI clinics must provide a free scan to someone on the public waiting list within 14 days of the private scan.
“Saskatchewan’s two-for-one MRI system has provided a tangible benefit to the public waitlist while providing the same access to diagnostic imaging that exists in several other provinces, removing 10,177 scans from the public waitlist,” Moe said.
The federal government has previously warned Saskatchewan that it is violating the Canada Health Act.
In 2016, then federal health minister Jane Philpott warned the Saskatchewan government to “put an end” to the province’s private-pay MRI system.
— with files from Emily Olsen