1962: The College of Medicine and the “Doctors’ Strike”
July 1, 1962 was the scheduled
date for implementation of Saskatchewan’s long-awaited public medical insurance
plan. The “organized medical
profession” in Saskatchewan, represented by the College of Physicians and
Surgeons, was firmly against the plan, and a withdrawal of services took place
on July 1.1
Since the College of Medicine had a large clinical
faculty, it is hardly surprising that the “doctors’ strike,” and the debates
relating to medicare, had a direct impact on the College. There were conflicting reports about the
extent of that impact, and how many College of Medicine doctors were supporting
the strike. Dean R.W. Begg, was anxious that the College remain neutral in the
dispute. The Dean also contacted other
Canadian medical schools and made contingency plans to ensure that in the event
of a “prolonged withdrawal of services” his students would be able to continue
One department that was
affected was Social and Preventive Medicine.
Samuel Wolfe, a professor in that department, had made trips to Britain
to recruit doctors to practice in Saskatchewan under the medicare plan. In early July, Wolfe resigned from faculty
and became one of the organizers of the Saskatoon Community Clinic. The new British doctors were key to the
Clinic’s early development and survival.
The strike ended on July
23. The overall impact of the medicare
crisis on the College of Medicine is difficult to assess. It is known that at least five full-time
clinicians left because of the crisis.
However, the number of applications for enrolment increased
significantly after 1962. Samuel Wolfe
and Robin Badgley (both originally in the Department of Social and Preventive
Medicine) lamented an opportunity lost: “As a result of the medical school’s
inability to tolerate differences of opinion on the medical care controversy,
the opportunity was lost to assess the impact of the legislation critically and
scientifically. The university, which
should have taken the lead in assessing the impact of medicare on the health of
the population and the quality of the medical services given by the doctors,
and which should have been finding answers, did not even ask questions.”2
College of Medicine Dean’s Office fonds, RG 2087
Emmett Hall fonds, MG 70
V.L. Matthews fonds, MG 241
W.P. Thompson fonds, MG 17
1962a: ClippingSamuel Wolfe
resigns from College of Medicine, Star-Phoenix,
10 July 1962. (Faculty Biographies Collection, Samuel Wolfe file).
1962b: MemoDean R.W. Begg
to clinical staff. College of Medicine Dean’s Office fonds, RG 2087, file
1962c: LetterDean R.W. Begg to deans of other
Canadian medical schools, making contingency plans.
College of Medicine Dean’s Office fonds RG 2087.
2. Badgley & Wolfe.