March 23, 2016: For Pay CT Scans Not the Canadian Way

For Pay CT Scans Not the Canadian Way  #ptsafety  #nursing  #skpoli

[March 23, 2016] Today, Saskatchewan’s more than 10,000 Registered Nurses, Registered Psychiatric Nurses, and Registered Nurse (Nurse Practitioners) stand with the Canadian Health Coalition and Canadian Doctors for Medicare to express our grave concerns with the Saskatchewan Party’s campaign promise to expand for-pay diagnostic imaging services to include CT scans.

In Canada healthcare is a right – afforded to every individual equally, regardless of their social status or size of their bank account – no citizen of this country is denied access to care based on whether he or she can afford to pay for it – this is the foundation of our universal healthcare system and an enormous point of pride for so many Canadians from coast to coast to coast. In fact, universal healthcare is part of our national identity.

It is therefore deeply troubling we find ourselves in a position where our government is again contemplating another step towards two-tiered access to health services.

It was just in the fall of 2015 when the Saskatchewan government passed legislation to allow people to pay privately for MRIs in an effort to reduce wait times – this happened in spite of the fact that in Alberta, even with pay-for-service private MRI clinics, typical wait times for these scans were considerably longer than Saskatchewan’s.

Today, we are back having these very same discussions – this time about CT scans. Once again we are looking at creating a scenario that encourages queue-jumping and gives preferential treatment to a privileged few.

I’ll put queue-jumping into perspective – A patient who can afford to pay for a CT scan who might only have a minor condition that requires some type of non-pressing intervention or treatment down the road might actually end up getting their CT scan, follow-up specialist appointment and treatment prior to a patient who cannot afford to pay, and yet has a far more serious condition warranting a more urgent intervention. In short, if you can afford to get your CT scan sooner you can get your treatment sooner than someone who may medically need it more urgently.

Furthermore, the "two-for-one" system where every clinic offering the CT scan would be required to provide a second scan at no charge to a patient waiting for a scan on the public list also needs to be scrutinized more. Firstly, as mentioned previously, this hasn’t been working in Alberta, where their two-tiered system has not decreased wait times or improved access on the public side. Secondly, the “free” scan still needs to be paid for. This means public, tax payer money, that is intended to fund the public health system, will now be funnelled to a private company whose sole reason for existence is to turn a profit.

For-pay diagnostic services go against the fundamentals of patient care and the professional ethics we as registered nurses strive to live up to each and every day. When you break it down – whether we are triaging patients in the ER, in labour and delivery, post-op recovery, long-term care or anywhere else in the system, registered nurses are constantly assessing our patients; and prioritizing and coordinating their care based on their needs – access to vital diagnostic imaging and any other health services should be based on this same elementary principle and not on the size of a patient’s bank account. 

Our province’s 10,000 frontline registered nurses are strongly opposed to the idea that one group would have greater access to any aspect of health care simply by virtue of their income. As registered nurses we know that this is neither fair nor right. This is not the universal healthcare Tommy Douglas envisioned, and it is certainly not Canadian.