The system of municipal doctors and union hospitals was one of the early innovations in the delivery of medical care in Saskatchewan. The rural nature of the population and the isolation of families in the vast and often harsh landscape fostered a spirit of cooperation that was unique.
In 1915, the RM of Sarnia became the first municipality in North America to retain a physician through local tax revenue. Two years later the province formalized the system with the passage of the Municipal Hospital Act.
Doctors on retainers were to provide free medical care to members of the community in exchange for a fixed income. By 1947 the system had expanded to include 101 municipalities serving nearly a quarter of the province’s population.
Union hospital programs paralleled those for municipal doctors. The legislation of 1916 also made provision “for the combining of towns, villages and rural municipalities in union hospital districts to erect and maintain a hospital.” By allowing the predominantly rural society to pool its resources, those who lived outside of large towns and cities could build, maintain and control their own hospitals. Union hospitals soon dotted the Saskatchewan landscape.
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