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Tommy Douglas' Influence on the Development of Healthcare System in Canada

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Tommy Douglas: The Man who put the care in Medicare

During the early 1900s Canada was in a state of desperation. The people were in turmoil and angst. Massive strikes were affecting many businesses and families. The economy continued on a downward spiral towards the Great Depression of the 1930s. Many people in, especially in the west, were looking for something to clear the dustbowls and provide promising and prosperous future for them.

Canada needed someone to overcome historys treacherous financial rollercoaster.

The peoples views of how things needed to be run in Canada were changing. It was almost imperative that they have someone in the federal government representing them. In the story Mouseland the mice repeatedly elect cats into government to make the laws and control their land. Although the cats made good laws they did not meet the needs of the mice. Like the mice in Mouseland , the Canadians needed a politician to represent the people and their ideas and not for themselves and the government. The politicians were inconsiderate when making and passing laws. Although they were good laws for some, they were not good laws for everyone. The government needed a politician with a fresh out look for his countrymen. The problem was that government officials at this point were not open to new ideas. Like the mouse in Mouseland, everyone saw no other possible way of running things than the way it was at that point. They needed someone they could depend on, who would not be afraid to confront the persons in power. They needed someone to act in their defense and work on their behalf.

There were many obstacles to overcome before anyone could have enough capabilities to make any sort of significant change. The person, if he were to prevail, would have to take many baby steps towards his goal of equality of treatment for all in the health care system. Obtaining support from the doctors would prove to be one of the largest obstacles of all. Many disliked the idea of the government handling the financial end of their businesses and were essentially looking out for their interests only. They felt that there was already private insurance available to the financially well off, those who found themselves in destitute situations could rely on the financial assistance of welfare and everyone else would have to pay the money necessary. Agreeing on the terms of Medicare also proved to be a difficult task for the provincial and federal government. When the initial form of Medicare was introduced the doctors opposed everything about the plan. In the following year they decided to withdraw their services and strike. What initially seemed to be the end of any sort of Medicare, was not. The government brought in multitudes of doctors from Britain and everything kept going as planned.

When all hope seemed to have disappeared, a hero arrived.

Many considered him the kind, caring and compassionate man that he was. He touched many by his ability to reach out to the people and make lasting impressions. Mary Matskevich had been in direct contact with him during his many visits to Windsor. He did a lot for people, Matskevich told a crowd of retired autoworkers. He would put his arm around you and treat you like his own daughter. He was persistent in his goal for building a better health care system for tomorrow.

All of this realization started when the health care system affected him as a youngster. As a patient in one of the public wards in the Winnipeg Childrens Hospital, his life was saved because of the generosity of a surgeons willingness to perform an operation on him free of charge.

I felt that no boy should have to depend either for his leg or his life upon the ability of his parents to raise enough money to bring a first class surgeon to his bedside. I came to believe that health services ought not to have a price tag on them, and that people should be able to get whatever health services they required irrespective of their individual capacity to pay.

Because of his experiences with the Canadian medical system he was prompted to make a change for the better. He was always eager to inform people of his ideas. He believed that anything was possible with a great deal of support and effort. Courage, my friends; its not too late to build a better world, was his daughters favourite quote made by him.

He is most recognized as being the founding Father of Medicare. In spite of ferocious antagonists from medical organizations he was able to bring forth free treatment for cancer and mental illnesses. Citizens who lived off pensions or who were impoverished were able to obtain medical, hospital, and dental care. Those who suffered from polio were able to receive treatment, medical schools were opened and people who did not live within populated areas were transported to treatment centers in an air ambulance.

These revisions in the medical system were all made possible because of one man.

He was someone with hopes and dreams for all of his fellow Canadians. Through Tommy Douglas persistence and courage we enjoy what we now know as the Canadian Health Act. Because of his beliefs and ideals of health care for everyone no matter what their financial situation, he lived a life filled with triumphs that fulfilled most of his life long goals and benefited all Canadians.

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