JANUARY 10, 1947
NEW YORK, Thursday—Since there is so much discussion in this country on the type of program which could provide adequate medical service for all of our people, whether in rural or urban areas, the story of what has been done in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan is very interesting.
There are about 900,000 residents of this province, which is about the size of the States of Wyoming, Utah and Nevada, where our population is approximately the same. They found it difficult to keep doctors in their rural areas, just as we find it difficult, so they voted to tax themselves locally in order to give their doctors an assured income—a scheme which has attracted and held many doctors.
In their cities, voluntary medical and hospital insurance plans have grown up, just as they have with us, but hospitalization in the rural areas has continued to be difficult. Now their legislature has worked out—with the cooperation of the medical profession, the hospitals and the local governments—the first publicly established complete hospital service on the North American continent. Anyone who has lived in Saskatchewan for six months, or longer, is eligible for this service.
On the recommendation of a doctor, an eligible person may be admitted free of charge into a hospital, and may remain there as long as is required. If the patient needs a private room, he must pay the extra charge, and he must pay for the services of the physician or the surgeon attending him.
The national government in Canada is already responsible for hospital care given veterans, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, soldiers, and some Indian tribes on reservations.
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People who are receiving relief from a local government or from the province are entitled to hospital service under the new law. All this is done under a tax plan which requires $5 a year to be paid by every individual, with a maximum payment of $30 as the limit for a family. The law provides that, if the revenue from the special tax should prove insufficient, the province will underwrite the extra cost.
Local hospitals, whether public or voluntary, will continue to be managed independently as before. They will simply be paid rates which have been worked out with the hospital representatives. Every local government registers the people in its area and collects the tax. The administration of the new law is under a special Health Service Planning Commission affiliated with the Saskatchewan Department of Public Health.
I suppose certain sections of our medical profession will consider this program subversive of the best medical practices, but certainly it would seem to provide more care for the people than has ever been within the reach of this particular type of population.