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  • Physician at the Frontier: Development of Public Healthcare in Saskatchewan, Canada from 1915 to 1965

    Published September 28, 2013 · Estimated reading time: 27 minutes · Share your thoughts
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    On July 1st, 1962 two-thirds of physicians in the Saskatchewan locked their practices, commencing a strike against the Province’s newly enacted Medical Care Insurance Act. The debate about whether public healthcare would meet the needs of populations extends back into the beginning of the last century. These protests culminated after five decades of changing medical practice and legislation in the province. The debate has been shaped by three stakeholders, the government, and the public and healthcare professionals. The position of these stakeholders has changed over time, depending on broader socio-political and economic trends.

    In this paper I examine evidence of physician attitudes towards increasing public and government involvement in their profession between 1915 and 1965. I find that physicians initially responded positively to public and state intervention, but increasingly became hostile towards such intervention, with hostilities culminating in the strike. I argue that this drastic shift in attitude was shaped by three underlying factors: (1) concerns about adequate compensation, (2) concerns about professional autonomy, and (3) increasing professionalization of physicians. I will examine how each of these factors related to broader socio-political and economic trends and associated health care legislation in Saskatchewan. In the first part, I will look at legislation concerning municipal doctors and hospitals between 1915 and 1930. Then, I will examine depression-era medical schemes as well as schemes developed during and in the response to the Second World War. Finally I will discuss the development of universal healthcare in the province between 1947 and 1962. Under each of these arrangements, I will look at funding, provision and delivery of medical services, and the response of the medical profession.

    medicareprotestcanadaProtesting the implementation of medicare, July 11, 1962. Saskatchewan Archives Board. Image source.

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    Permanent linkMarzieh Ghiasi