The Saskatchewan Medical Association was first organized on August 20, 1905, without legal charter, under the leadership of Dr. Maurice Macdonald Seymour, the Saskatchewan Commissioner of Public Health at the time. In 1933, the organization incorporated under the Societies Act of Saskatchewan. However, six months later, a joint meeting was held with the Council of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, which had also been formed in the early years of the province, to discuss merging the two organizations.
In January 1934, a special legislative committee was appointed by a joint meeting of the two bodies and this committee reported to the Annual Meeting in September of 1936. In its report, the Committee pointed out that the Council of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan had been given statutory functions by The Medical Act for registration, licencing, and discipline. Council, however, had expanded some of its activities within recent years and transacted business with governments and with other organized bodies on behalf of the profession.
The Council of the day did not report these decisions and negotiations to the profession because the Act did not call for an Annual Meeting of the College. At the same time, the Saskatchewan Medical Association was holding annual meetings and trying to conduct business on behalf of the profession. The natural result was that there developed a conflict of authority and jurisdiction between the College and the Association and a distinct haziness as to the duties and responsibilities which each should assume.
The Committee had come to the conclusion that there should be one body to transact all business of whatever kind on behalf of the profession and thereby get away from the system of dual control. It recommended to the meeting at the time that the two bodies merge and adopt the name "College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan" and that necessary changes in The Medical Act be asked for to allow this body to transact all business on behalf of the profession. The Committee went on to make several recommendations regarding details of the organization. Many of these were changed by the meeting but the main recommendation was adopted and as of September 24, 1936 the SMA ceased to function.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons then conducted the affairs of the profession through the war and post-war years. During the 1950s, the feeling began to grow that the College of Physicians and Surgeons should restrict its activities to registration, licencing, and discipline and that matters pertaining to economics, education, professional welfare and negotiations with outside bodies should be done by a separate body to avoid jeopardizing the College's position under The Medical Profession Act.
In 1961 and 1962, the years of medical crisis in Saskatchewan, professional spokesmen made statements on behalf of the Saskatchewan Division of the CMA in order to offset the threat of withdrawal of the powers of The Medical Professions Act. In January of 1963, Council of the College of Physicians and Surgeons appointed a Board of the Saskatchewan Division of the C.M.A. to act as a committee of Council. That appointed Board assumed ever-increasing responsibility for committees of the day except for those dealing with licencing, standards, and discipline.
Interestingly, the Council retained responsibility for the Schedule of Minimum Fees and it was the Council that, in 1968, negotiated the first revision of the Payment Schedule with the government. In those days, there existed a Central Health Services Committee appointed by Council and on which Council relied for feedback on various issues. Its membership included various key committee personnel as well as physicians from each of the District Medical Societies. That committee recommended at its meeting of May 30, 1965 that Council investigate the formal separation of the Saskatchewan Division of the C.M.A. from the College with a clear distinction of their respective functions.
The appointed Board of the Saskatchewan Division took some preliminary steps. The Central Health Services Committee had provided a useful function but the Board concluded that there should be a body more representative of the Districts. Thus the Committee was disbanded in February 1966 and replaced by an Advisory Committee of District Representatives. Each District Medical Society was invited to name one representative except Saskatoon and Regina, who were asked to each name three representatives. The function of the Advisory Committee was to bring in information from the Districts to the Board and to take information from the Board to the Districts. About this same time, the Board began to use the name Saskatchewan Medical Association.
In mid-1966, the Legislative Committee began drafting a constitution for the Association. During September and October, Dr M.A. Baltzan, Chairman of the Board and the newly appointed Executive Secretary, Dr. E.H. Baergen, undertook a tour of the District Medical Societies to explain the plans for re-organization. From the very beginning of the planning process, the draft constitution provided for a Representative Assembly to consist of representation from Districts as well as from specialties. It was to function as a parliament to establish policy. It was given the power to elect the Officers and Directors to carry out those policies and to act on behalf of the Association. The Advisory Committee met twice during 1966 and endorsed the re-organized structure.
The Annual Meeting of the College of Physicians and Surgeons held in Regina on October 18 and 19, 1966 unanimously adopted a resolution to proceed with the inauguration of the SMA as an independent body in accordance with the proposed constitution.
The first Representative Assembly was then elected and it first met in Regina on April 15 and 16, 1967. The first elected president of the revised SMA was Dr. M.A. Baltzan. His father, Dr. D.M. Baltzan, presided over the meeting in 1936 when the SMA was merged with the College.
During 1966 and 1967, physicians were asked to sign a petition in support of the re-organization. The intent was to use those signatures to petition government for an Act to establish the SMA. Since government was not receptive to that proposal, it was decided to incorporate under The Societies Act which was done in 1972. Incorporation status was continued under the Non-Profit Corporations Act when it came into effect in 1981.
The discussions in 1966 had concluded that membership in the SMA should be compulsory in order to ensure its financial viability. From 1967 to 1972, the SMA functioned under a budgetary grant from the College. The N.D.P. had been replaced by the Liberals in the 1964 provincial election following the Medicare crisis in 1962. In 1971, the N.D.P. returned to power and, mindful of the College's previous activities related to medicare, seized on the profession's wish to have a separate SMA. In 1972, the government amended The Medical Profession Act to prohibit the College from collecting dues on behalf of the SMA.
That legislative change forced the SMA to reassess its position with respect to mandatory membership. At the time, there was no other legislative provision by which it could be enforced. It was decided to try it on a voluntary basis and membership continues to be voluntary to this day. However, in 1986 legislation was adopted to allow the SMA to check-off or collect 75% of the dues for non-member fee-for-service physicians. The rationale was that the SMA was entitled to some compensation from non-members for its role as collective bargaining agents.
In 1996, this concept was expanded further by allowing the collection of dues from non-members working under contract and salaried arrangements.
The demands placed upon the SMA by its members and by the various agencies with which it interacts have increased steadily over the years. When it began in 1967, the SMA had a staff of three. Today, 30 people manage various beneficial programs for our membership. As the health and medical care environment continues to change, the SMA will continue to change with it. History has shown that the SMA is a resilient body.