NDP raises concern over failings identified in Auditor’s report

The second volume of the Provincial Auditor’s report, released today, identifies several areas where the Sask. Party government’s failure to wisely invest in people has caused greater suffering and costs us all more.

One significant concern is the backlog of biopsies identified in the report. As of September 2018, there was a backlog of 1,300 biopsies awaiting analysis at the Regina and Saskatoon labs.

“The shortage of technical staff and pathologists behind this backlog is not new information,” said NDP Leader Ryan Meili. “It was first raised in 2015, and the fact that the government has not made significant improvements to this issue since it was first raised is alarming.

“As the auditor acknowledged, it can be incredibly stressful for patients and their families to have to wait weeks for a biopsy result. The Sask. Party government is clearly not listening to the auditor or concerned physicians who are raising this issue.”

The auditor’s investigation into biopsy waits echoes concerns raised in Chief Clive Weighill’s review of the coroner’s office released earlier this year. The informal relationship between the Coroner’s Office and the Saskatchewan Health Authority puts pressure on the health system and diverts health region staff, space and resources away from clinical medicine in these laboratories. When asked in committee last week by Corrections and Policing Critic Nicole Sarauer about Weighill’s recommendations for additional pathological resources, Justice Minister Don Morgan admitted that the government had not allocated additional funds to increase the number of technical staff and pathologists in this fiscal year.

The report also found significant gaps in the corrections system likely to result in higher rates of recidivism. Fully half of the province’s adult prison population are awaiting trial or sentencing, and the Ministry of Corrections and Policing has failed to implement three recommendations that were first made in 2008 regarding rehabilitating adult inmates. One quarter of the files reviewed by the auditor showed the ministry did not provide inmates with rehabilitation before their release.

“The ministry hasn’t provided the inmates with access to rehabilitation programs, nor have they monitored the relationship between access to rehabilitation and rates of recidivism. This information is critical to understanding how to reduce these rates,” said Meili.

The auditor also focused on how allegations of child abuse and neglect are investigated. The report showed that in the almost ten per cent of cases examined, appropriate sign-offs by supervisors were not in place. The decision was then made to not investigate. The report also found cases of managers overriding the decisions of staff doing intake assessments to stop investigations from going forward without sufficient reasons.

“It’s important that any case involving the safety of children is handled with the utmost care and consideration for the children’s safety. The fact that these checks were not always followed is deeply concerning,” said Meili.

This report noted that caseworkers sometimes failed to make face-to-face contact with children and families within required timeframes. Investigations were often not finalized within the 45-day required timeframe, leaving 44 per cent of cases open after 45 days.

“It is clear from the Provincial Auditor’s report that the Sask. Party government has a lot of work to do in order to fix what they have neglected for years,” said Meili. “Instead of blustering and explaining deficiencies away, they need to listen to what the auditor is saying and seriously work towards fixing their mistakes.”