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Saskatchewan’s Healthcare History – Medicare, Race-Based Access, and More

Photo Credit: Members of the U of R’s research team compiling Saskatchewan’s healthcare history (l-r) Dr. Twyla Salm (Education), Dr. Tom McIntosh (Political Science) and Dr. Jim Daschuk (Kinesiology). Also part of the team is Dr. Paul Hackett (Geography) from the U of S. Photo courtesy of University of Regina Photography Department By: Costa Maragos for the University of Regina

Saskatchewan, the birthplace of Medicare, holds a prominent place in the history of healthcare in Canada. 

The establishment of Medicare is a significant milestone, but there is so much more to Saskatchewan’s healthcare history.

A team of researchers at the U of R and U of S is assembling an impressive interactive web-based timeline, designed to highlight the evolution of health in Saskatchewan. 

The researchers are with the Saskatchewan Population Health and Evaluation Research Unit (SPHERU) and they are looking for the public’s input. 

“A number of people at SPHERU had an interest in exploring the historical patterns behind the health inequalities that we see in Saskatchewan,” says Dr. Tom McIntosh, professor in the Department of Politics and International Studies and a member of the SPHERU team.

The research team is working on getting data on historical health outcomes for different populations (rural, urban, Indigenous, non-Indigenous, northern and southern etc). The team has started tracing the history of key institutions such as hospitals and sanatoriums and third-sector or community-based organizations that have been key deliverers of health services.

For example, the first documented hospital in the area that would become known as Saskatchewan was in Cumberland House in 1781. 

“One person sent us newspaper clippings about how her father had played an important role in changing rules around access to hospitals in major cities for First Nations peoples and instead being sent only to the so-called ‘Indian Hospitals.’ That’s a story in itself about the history of how race determined and still determines, access to care,” says McIntosh.

The timeline has a few hundred entries with more being added. For example, there are a number of entries relating to the effect of tuberculosis on different populations. 

But, as McIntosh points out, “we’re a long way from telling that very complicated story in a comprehensive way.” 

The SPHERU team hopes this health timeline can ultimately be an open-access teaching tool for high schools and universities. 

“As a teaching tool, we think the timeline has incredible potential because not only can students explore those things they’re interested in, but also add to it,” says Dr. Jim Daschuk, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies.

With the volume of material coming in, the greatest challenge is obtaining further funding to develop the timeline. That would include the hiring of students and others to turn those timeline submissions into data for the website.

So far, key support has come from the SPHERU’s Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation’s Team Grant, the University of Regina’s Dean of Arts Research Award, the President’s Teaching and Learning Scholars Fund and SPHERU’s own funds.

“As a team, we now want to really engage educators in ensuring that we are creating something that they can use, that aligns with curriculum outcomes and is easily adaptable to multiple kinds of classroom settings,” says Dr. Twyla Salm, Associate Dean, Research and Graduate Programs in the Education Faculty.

For more information and to submit your ideas for the healthcare timeline, please contact

Please visit the link below to explore the timeline.

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