The Sask NDP party leader Cam Broten was the guest speaker at the annual NDP spring banquet in Weyburn on Thursday. Broten spoke to roughly 75 people at the Legion about the government problems his party is trying to fix as the opposition in the Legislature.
“This has been a very good sitting for our party in opposition in terms of the things we’ve been talking about, the concerns we’ve been voicing on behalf of the Saskatchewan people, the progress we’ve been making on important issues and showing the shortcomings of this government,” said Broten. “They’re (the Sask Party) failing to fix the basics and address what Saskatchewan people really need and really care about.”
Broten pointed to coming changes in the Ministry of Social Services, specifically the number of social workers in the province that are being cut, as proof. He is concerned that there won’t be enough people on the ground to look out for the province’s most vulnerable children.
June Draude, Minister of Social Services, recently took a trip to Ghana, Africa for a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) conference and took a friend and a family member with her. The trio spent time in London, England during a long layover. It was reported that the total cost of the trip was $19,000, covered by the taxpayers.
Broten said the conference Draude attended was of no real benefit to the province and that when he raised the issue of lack of accountability for the taxpayers, the issue was brushed aside by the Sask Party.
Furthermore, Broten said the friend that accompanied Draude on her trip was then appointed to the position of chair of the Social Services appeal board.
“It’s a complete conflict of interest and completely inappropriate,” he said.
He said the government’s overwhelming majority have given them a sense of entitlement to do as they wish and not answer the opposition’s questions and be accountable.
Another issue Broten raised was the government’s implementation of the lean process to try and make health care more efficient.
“The most shiny, pet project we see the government’s obsession with is lean,” said Broten.
Lean was developed by Toyota as a program to find efficiencies throughout an entire organization’s manufacturing process. The Sask Party is taking the principals of lean and implementing within all the health regions throughout the province.
“It’s important to have an efficient health care system — absolutely. The problem is a patient in a hospital bed isn’t like the drive train of a Camry.
There’s a few differences going on there,” said Broten. “You can’t treat a resident in a care facility like a piece of equipment on a manufacturing line.”
Broten said the lean process was brought to the province’s health care system by a consultant from the United States who the government paid $40 million. Even more money has been spent flying Japanese senseis into health regions and paying them $3,500 per day, plus travel costs, to help instruct health region officials in the lean process. He said $70 million is being spent every year to promote lean.
“Can you believe that? The province that invented (universal) health care (…) is now flying in senseis from other countries and paying $40 million to one U.S. consultant to tell us how to improve health care,” he said.
Besides the financial aspect of the lean program, Broten said it just isn’t working. Citing government data, he said mortality after surgery rates, infection rates, pain management and overall patient satisfaction rates are getting worse. Nurses have spoken with him saying that they have been warned not to speak out about lean publicly or on social media.
Weyburn-Big Muddy MLA and Health Minister Dustin Duncan said those incidence numbers have gone up, but that they don’t have the full story.
“We are very early into the lean process, so I wouldn’t say (those numbers) are attributable to lean,” Duncan said, and explained that it is too early to attribute those changes to lean. He also said part of the lean process is to improve reporting, and that those numbers likely reflect the fact that staff are getting better at reporting incidences. Ten years ago, under the NDP party, the province’s health incidence rates increased 60 per cent in one year, and Duncan said he wouldn’t attribute that to the NDP because it was a blip and also likely due to improved reporting systems at the time.
“Lean is a tool we’re using to make the system better,” said Duncan.
The NDP feels Saskatchewan patients, care providers and families can fix the health care problems without bringing in outsiders and that a big portion of the problem is chronic understaffing. He also views the province announcing that the children’s hospital to be built in Saskatoon needs to be redesigned is an admission of guilt because they used lean principals to design it.
“With a growing population, it doesn’t make sense to have fewer beds and a smaller hospital,” he said.
Duncan said 300 more doctors and a record number of Registered nurses have been recruited to the province in the last six years and that it is “absolutely not true” that hospital staff have been silenced, as both he and Premier Brad Wall have repeatedly asked front line staff for any feedback they have about the lean process. Duncan said the lean process was first tried in the province under an NDP government for two years, but not expanded throughout the whole province and continued. He said the SaskParty has only expanded the program.
In regard to the controversy over Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) in Saskatchewan, Broten encouraged the federal government to be “smart” with their immigration policies and was not in favour of the TFW program.
“It’s not fair to the Canadian people and it’s not fair to the Temporary Foreign Workers,” he said. “For immigration to work well, there needs to be a long-term path so that those who come are able to stay and able to do well.”
Broten acknowledged that immigration is a valuable resource in Saskatchewan’s economy, but that it needs to benefit all Canadians.
“I don’t fault the temporary foreign workers. If an employer is abusing the program, that employer should be investigated and should be held accountable,” he said.
A financial appeal raised $4,720 and $325 was raised in an auction for a portrait of former premier Roy Romanow painted by J.B. Smith from Pangman. The total of $5,045 was still more than $600 less than the party raised at the same banquet last year.
The Ministries of Social Services and Health were contacted for a reply to the accusations about what is happening in their departments, but did not respond in time for publication.