Medicare Impact on Nursing

Although the doctors' strike is a large part of Saskatchewan's medicare history, nurses, surprisingly, did not take a partisan role in the conflict. The Saskatchewan Registered Nurses' Association (SRNA) urged nurses to decide for themselves where their loyalties lay. Some nurses were in favour of implementing the medicare scheme while others were adamantly opposed, taking part in the Keep Our Doctor Committees (KODs). The implementation of medicare did not even merit close attention in The First Fifty Years , the history of the first fifty years of the SRNA.

The fact that medicare was such a non-issue for nurses is interesting in itself. While the whole province was in turmoil over a change to the health care system as it had existed for decades, nurses showed professional integrity and stayed in at work. They did not walk off the job in support of doctors, but rather picked up the slack in hospitals and dealt with the large numbers of patients who needed medical care.

Georgiana Chartier, a nurse, remembers being outraged at the hospital's treatment of patients during this time. Her son had been out playing in the campground where the family was vacationing and had taken quite a vicious fall. His mother, being a nurse, automatically thought of all of the things that could have been wrong with her son due to his injury and thus rushed him to St. Paul's Hospital in Saskatoon. Chartier remembers her feelings at the time:

"And there was a form I had to sign before they would care for him, and it was literally, to me, the way I read it, was that if anything goes wrong, nobody was responsible. So I signed the form. But then in brackets, I put "under duress," which made me very unpopular...I thought that this was against their oath...that you're literally leaving your patients...I didn't think it was right, and I guess it was this sort of thing that you took an oath to look after people. You didn't leave them like that. I guess I found it sort of against what you were supposed to be doing. You were caring for the sick and there were oaths that you took to care for your patients" (Interview: Georgiana Chartier).

While Chartier's views are not representative of all nurses, they do reflect some of the frustrations at the time.