Saskatchewan Premier Moe challenges Liberal leader Justin Trudeau on private MRIs

·4 min read

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is accusing Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau of unfair treatment over private MRI clinics.

Moe was reacting Tuesday to Trudeau's campaign saying this week that if it wins government, it will claw back health fund transfers should MRI patient charges in Saskatchewan not be eliminated.

“Other provinces including Quebec and Ontario have long had private MRI clinics operating within their jurisdictions, yet the Liberal leader has not threatened cuts to health funding in these provinces,” said Moe in a statement.

“This includes private MRI clinics that operate within the Liberal leader’s hometown of Montreal.”

Moe said Trudeau needs to properly fund health care, as urged by all provinces.

“We need a federal government that unites the country, not divides it further, especially on important national issues like health care,” said Moe.

“It is disappointing that the Liberal leader is seeking to politicize health care 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.”

Saskatchewan and the Trudeau government have been at loggerheads for years over the province's program to reduce MRI wait times.

In Saskatchewan, for-profit clinics can charge patients for tests as long as they also provide scans to those on the public wait list.

Moe said Saskatchewan’s system has proven to be a tangible benefit, removing more than 10,000 scans from the public wait list.

Trudeau, speaking in Hamilton, was asked by reporters if he would apply the same standards to Quebec on private MRIs.

“Over the past number of years, every time we make a Canada Health Transfer to the provinces we make adjustments and we have. There are penalties for private delivery of services that we have brought in over the past years in a number of different cases,” Trudeau replied.

“We will continue to stand up for a public, universal health-care system, unlike (Conservative Leader) Erin O’Toole. In the depths of a pandemic, he actually shared his perspective that he believes in a for-profit, private health-care system and he will not tell people what exactly he wants to do with that.”

On Sunday Liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland sent out Tweet that included an edited video clip of O'Toole saying "yes" when asked during last year's Conservative leadership contest if he supports "the provision of private, for-profit and non-profit health-care options within the universal health system."

Conservatives accused the Liberals of editing the video clip to remove O'Toole's qualification that the health system needs to "make sure that universal access remains paramount" even as it employs "public-private synergies" to bring innovation to the system.

Twitter slapped a warning label on the tweet, calling it "manipulated media."

On Tuesday, O’Toole reiterated his commitment to the public system and accused Trudeau of seeking to play both sides of the issue with an “ongoing, misleading campaign on health care and his attacks on provinces.”

“A prime minister who was serious about health care wouldn't have called an election during a national health emergency. And now, unbelievably, he's threatening to cut health-care funding, and close health clinics in the middle of a pandemic. I knew Justin Trudeau was desperate to win his majority, but I never believed he would compromise people's health to get it,” said O’Toole, speaking to reporters in Ottawa.

“I support the health system we have right now, where Canadians can choose the kind of health care they want universal and free for everyone," he said, adding that Trudeau has allowed for-profit care to grow under his watch.

“I view innovation as a good thing. I trust the premiers to do what is best for patients in their provinces. If Saskatchewan, Alberta, Ontario, or Quebec want to innovate to provide better health care, I support that. Why? Because it gives Canadians more choice. The more choices Canadians have in health care, the better it reduces wait times, and it frees up more money to reinvest in health care.”

In the campaign, the Conservatives are promising to increase the rate of the Canada Health Transfer to at least six per cent of the current figure, which is tied to growth in the economy, to increase funding by about $60 billion in the health system over the next decade.

The Liberals are promising to spend $3 billion more to help provinces hire more nurses, doctors and nurse practitioners.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 24, 2021.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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