The NDP called on the Sask. Party government at the legislature on Monday to stop their private MRI program.
The federal government announced it will be clawing back almost $750,000 in health care transfers due to patients being charged fees for services deemed necessary.
Sask. Health Minister Paul Merriman said despite the clawback, they won’t be changing the current policy.
“We have to leverage every option that we have on the table right now for our health-care system and that is the private system, both publicly funded, but also private surgeries,” said Merriman.
He noted that “99 per cent” of the scan costs are being covered by the provincial government, not taxpayers.
Critics from the NDP are saying that the implementation of the scans violates the Health Canada Act.
“The Sask. Party knew from day one that they were breaking the law, knew that these cuts were coming, and still didn’t do a thing. Our hospitals are overflowing and the last thing anyone wants to see is even less funding,” said Sask. NDP leader Carla Beck.
The provincial government just recently procured an extra 3,000 scans to address the surgical backlog.
“This did start under the previous government, and we just built on what they had started and expanded it from the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Workers Compensation to all people in Saskatchewan,” said Merriman.
He added that the feedback from patients and clinicians has been positive, and the scans are serving their purpose of speeding up the surgical process.
“I’m very disappointed that the federal government has decided to penalize us for that,” Merriman said.
Critics claimed that the MRI program isn’t helping.
“The Sask. Party’s American-style MRI experiment is a lose-lose. It’s draining funding and personnel from our public health system – making wait times even longer – and making Saskatchewan people rack up huge credit card bills for procedures that should be free,” said Health Critic Vicki Mowat.
It was said in the House Monday that rather than being scrapped, the program might be expanded in the future.
“We are always looking at expanding our health-care system to take the pressure off whether that is publicly funded and privately delivered or publicly funded and publicly delivered,” said Merriman.