Residents of Saskatchewan can celebrate a major anniversary in July, five years ahead of the rest of Canadians.
Medicare was implemented in this province exactly 50 years ago on July 1 and a lot more of us are around to remember it than would have been without it.
The Weyburn Review recently offered a reminder of the political tension from that time with a note from its 1962 issue. The story in that issue warned people that only two doctors would be available at Weyburn Union Hospital for emergency treatment after July 1 because Medicare was being implemented on that date and most doctors were opposed. A similar situation was taking place in many other locations in the province.
The story has changed today.
A group called Canadian Doctors for Medicare says on its website: “The truth is that Medicare is not only good for patients; it is also good for doctors. The case for Medicare is as strong today as it was in the 1960s, and is now buttressed by strong research and by decades of physician experience and Canadian commitment to the values it represents.”
But what about patients? Have we really benefited?
Without doubt, we have.
Take the lifespan of the average Canadian as an example. Statistics Canada shows that life expectancy jumped from 68 for males and 74 for females in 1960-62 to 78 for males and 83 for females in Saskatchewan in 2007-09. Medicare, including public health measures such as water testing and advising people how to live healthier, contributed to that increase.
Or, use those familiar childhood diseases as an example. Between 1950-54 in Canada, there was an average of 105 cases of rubella per 100,000 population, with a peak of 37,917 cases in one year. Between 2000 and 2004, there was an average of 0.1 cases per 100,000 population, with a peak number of cases of 29. Rubella infection can result in miscarriage, stillbirth and fetal malformations. Rubella vaccine is given in combination with mumps and measles vaccines.
Just think of the healthy babies born in recent years thanks to Medicare.
Between 1950-54 there was an average annual rate of 17.3 cases per 100,000 population. We all know what polio did to many people at the time and, again, years later when post-polio syndrome emerged.
Now, polio has been eliminated from Canada. It is no longer a risk to the population. Medicare’s immunization program did that for us.
I could go on and on. Medicare may need some changes: additions as well as subtractions, but when it’s raining, you need an umbrella. Medicare is the health care umbrella. Looking into the future, we will continue to value and work under the umbrella and celebrate again 50 years from now.