Broten calls for full inquiry on forest fires

NDP Leader also proposes immediate actions

With the immediate threat to northern communities averted thanks to the hard work of fire crews, and with most evacuees returned home, Saskatchewan’s New Democrats are calling for a full forest fire inquiry to address the many concerns raised by northern leaders and community members.

“Over the last month, I've visited the northern fire zone several times and I've heard a lot of frustration about the deep cuts to forest firefighting resources, about policies that are too rigid and restrictive, about the lack of collaboration with First Nations and northern leaders, and even about the lack of basic information shared with those leaders and evacuees,” said NDP Leader Cam Broten. “I want to see a full, independent review to ensure the appropriate lessons are learned from this experience, and to deliver a much better approach to forest fires going forward.”

Broten said the review must be independent, led by experts appointed in consultation with First Nations and northern leaders, to prevent it from becoming a public relations exercise for the government.

“We're incredibly relieved there was no loss of life, but there has been a tremendous toll on all affected families and communities and I know they have many questions,” said Broten. “What role did all the cuts and shrinking resources have in allowing these forest fires to get so out of control? Why weren’t enough people put on the front lines sooner? Why was there so little collaboration with First Nations that wanted to help house evacuees? Why was information not shared more readily? These are the kinds of questions many northern leaders and community members are asking, and they deserve answers.”

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Man dies during Preeceville hospital closure

Another rural hospital with locked doors; NDP wants a new rural health strategy

Floyd Head had a heart attack in his home just a block away from the Preeceville Hospital, but it took seven hours to get him to Regina – too late to save his life.

The NDP says rural hospitals with locked doors, intermittent hours and understaffing are hurting patients’ access to health care. The NDP is calling for a review of rural health care, and a new strategy to meet the need.

In June, the government shut down the Preeceville emergency room every second week, putting it on “bypass” in alternate weeks, forbidding ambulances from stopping there. On June 28, Head, 74, had chest pains in his home in Preeceville. An ambulance arrived at 11 p.m.

During the long trip to Yorkton, with no emergency department to stop at to have clot-blocking medication administered, Head went from being conscious and talking, to unresponsive. In Yorkton, he received some treatment but was rerouted to Regina, and arrived via airlift at 6 a.m. on June 29, seven hours after calling the ambulance in Preeceville.

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Underfunding health facilities risky for patients

Another air conditioner breaks, thousands of safety incidents related to infrastructure according to former CEO

The NDP wants the government to repair run-down health buildings as yet another infrastructure failure put patients at risk – this time a broken air conditioning unit at the Wascana Rehabilitation Centre.

NDP Health critic Danielle Chartier said with crumbling and broken infrastructure plaguing health care, the government needs a new approach.

Infrastructure problems lead to the majority of 33,000 safety incident reports in the Saskatoon Health Region alone, according to the former CEO.

“Most safety incident reports (33K) @Saskatoonhealth: near misses related to infrastructure. 8000 relate to client falls.” That social media post came from CEO Maura Davies before she suddenly resigned in October 2014.

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Saskatchewan adds part-time jobs instead of full-time careers

Over the last year, Saskatchewan has added 6,600 part-time jobs and only 900 full-time jobs – an indication that the government is failing to diversify and stabilize the economy.

That’s according to new numbers from Statistics Canada, which also show that during the same time period, Alberta added 11,400 full-time jobs and 9,900 part-time jobs and Manitoba added 9,900 full-time jobs and 7,700 part-time jobs.

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Hire all qualified firefighting applicants: NDP

Over the last 24 hours, over 600 people have contacted the government because they want to join Saskatchewan's forest firefighting crews, and the NDP wants all qualified applicants hired.

First Nations leaders in northern Saskatchewan pushed the government repeatedly to hire more firefighters. Finally, the government agreed, but committed to only about 250. Just $56 million was set aside for wildfire management this year, including for firefighters, compared to more than $102 million in 2009-10 – and the NDP wants the provincial government to staff-up again.

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