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Lean training under fire in Saskatchewan

Danielle ChartierSASKATOON – Several senior healthcare executives who took “lean” training at public expense have since left their posts, resulting in the waste of more than $1 million of taxpayers’ money, says the Opposition health critic.

The government should have tied their training to a service commitment as it did for others, said NDP critic Danielle Chartier (pictured). Alternately, those costs should be recovered, she said.

“This is about the Sask. Party government’s misplaced priorities,” Chartier said in the Leader-Post newspaper.

However, Health Minister Dustin Duncan said professional development is an integral part of the healthcare system, and employees are free to pursue other jobs.

Those executives, who include the Saskatoon Health Region’s former CEO Maura Davies, its board chair, Jim Rhode, former 3sHealth vice-president Bonnie Blakley and “Kaizen Promotion Office” director Candice Bryden, have all moved on to do lean consulting work in the private sector, according to Chartier.

Davies and Bryden are listed as new team members of John Black and Associates, the U.S.-based firm contracted to conduct the training in Saskatchewan.

Chartier said the exodus of taxpayer-trained executives to the private sector is another example of the flawed lean process. According to Chartier, the only ones who’ve benefitted from lean are Black’s firm, the Japanese “senseis” contracted to conduct training and the “select group of insiders trained at our expense.”

She said these and other executives were expected to lead the organizations through the changes, but are no longer available. Chartier also said the increasing pressures on seniors’ care, the growing dissatisfaction of health professionals and other indicators are signs that lean has been a mistake.

Duncan disagreed, saying there are other signs it has been successful. He pointed to decreasing surgery wait times, as well as the improved immunization rates for babies in a project in southern Saskatchewan.

“It’s about changing our processes … It has been successful,” Duncan said.

He noted healthcare now consumes 42 to 44 per cent of the provincial budget, so lean can be one tool to make the system more efficient.

As for the training, Duncan said a few employees agreed to a five-year service clause, and all are meeting that commitment. Those workers are taking a detailed, advanced version of the training. Duncan said it’s not realistic to expect all 800 professionals taking the training to agree to stay after completion.

He said it’s not surprising to have some turnover in a system that employs more than 40,000 people.

Duncan said roughly 300 of the 800 workers have completed their training.

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