Most people know that in 1962 Saskatchewan became the "birthplace of Medicare" and that the rest of Canada soon followed. However, few people today remember the political fight that the people of Saskatchewan and its doctors waged in opposition to their government's plan. In Setting the Record Straight, the events of that year are vividly remembered by one who not only witnessed it, but was an active participant. In the 50th anniversary of Saskatchewan's Medical Care Insurance Act, Dr. Noel Doig presents for the first time what the introduction of Medicare meant from the perspective of the doctors and patients of Saskatchewan at the time. With rich storytelling detail, and punctuated by the witty political cartoons of the late Saskatoon Star Phoenix/Regina Leader Post artist Ed Sebestyen, Doig recounts in dramatic fashion the story of how politics trumped principle. Setting the Record the Record Straight is written to ensure that the physicians' untold story of the Medicare crisis is accurately recorded for the posterity by one who made a promise to his colleagues that he would do so in their memory. It is not intended to present prescriptions for the present or future. It is Doig's life legacy: the culmination of a career devoted to his patients and to advocacy for the best medical care systems and practices for them - regardless of the implications for their doctors, or for politicians. Experience teaches us to ignore history at our peril as it has a tendency to repeat itself. In that context, this memoir is an important and timely piece of Saskatchewan and Canadian medical and social history. The lessons of the history are particularly important now, as the future of Canada's medical system is being hotly debated. Health care is consistently a top-of-mind issue for Canadians in every political poll. Additionally, the relevance of these issues extends southward as Americans continue to scrutinize their health care system and versions of Medicare, including Canada's. It is a dominant domestic issue of the upcoming 2012 Presidential election campaign, and will undoubtedly influence voters' choice of the next U.S. President.
As a young physician in Saskatoon in 1961-62, my memories of the events preceding the introduction of Medicare in Saskatchewan have faded over the years but were vividly brought back to life by Dr. Doig's excellent memoir. His account of the Medicare crisis is straightforward and factual. He accurately documents the concerns of Saskatchewan physicians regarding the implementation of the Medicare Act by the NDP government of the day.
Irrespective of one's political inclinations, there should be little doubt that Noel Doig has made a valuable and important contribution to the understanding of one of the most critical watershed events in the history of our province, and of our nation.
The reader will be struck by the amount of detail provided by the author and how interesting it all is. The author never gets lost in it but rather provides the reader with a unique perspective of the times. It is unique to have a doctor write about the implementation of Medicare in Saskatchewan and one who was in the middle of the battle and a refugee from a British Medicare Program. I loved the book and would highly recommend it to any one who wants a real perspective of what went on just before and after the election of 1960.
Meticulously researched and expertly crafted, Dr. Doig has written a compelling and well documented firsthand account of the implementation of Medicare. This careful and often fascinating retelling of the events by someone who was there also answers several obvious questions, long missed by the "official" historians of Medicare and Saskatchewan politics. It is a must read.