In keeping with its commitment to test innovations, the Douglas government encouraged the Swift Current Health Region to pioneer a combined hospital and medical services insurance plan. After a plebiscite, citizens in the towns and surrounding rural municipalities and local doctors used the Saskatchewan Hospital Services Plan as a foundation to develop a premium-based medical services plan to provide comprehensive health services in their region. In the mid-1950s, when the province attempted to expand this successful program to other major centres, however, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan countered by opposing the initiative on the grounds that its profession-sponsored prepaid plans — Medical Services Inc. (Saskatoon) and Group Medical Services, Regina — served the population well enough and that the government’s role was to fund those who could not afford the premiums of the doctor-sponsored plans. In 1954, Medical Services Inc. (Saskatoon) and Group Medical Services, Regina covered 108,000 and 32,000 clients in their cities, respectively.
But did these plans meet the needs of their clients? Was the medical profession endeavouring to protect its financial interests? Was it correct to claim that government involvement in funding hospital and medical services was equivalent to “state medicine”? During the 1950s, Saskatchewan, like the rest of Canada, attracted British doctors who were seeking a better life away from Great Britain, which was only slowly recovering from the impact of the Second World War. Some of them had rejected the implementation of the National Health Service and saw in the proposals of the Douglas government a harbinger of the same much disliked bureaucratic control. Such attitudes did not bode well for further extensions of government initiatives.