Taxpayers spent at least $1.8 million for senior health administrators to become private Lean consultants

Government claimed there was a five-year return service arrangement, so Opposition wants training costs reimbursed

After Saskatchewan taxpayers paid for their Lean training, several senior health administrators have left our health care system and taken up lucrative consulting gigs. 

Former Saskatoon Health Region CEO Maura Davies and former Kaizen Promotion Office director Candice Bryden have joined the Sask. Party government's American Lean consulting firm, John Black and Associates. Former Saskatoon Health Region Chair Jim Rhode and former 3sHealth vice president Bonnie Blakley have established their own Lean consulting firm.

"We should have seen significant widespread improvements for patients and front-line workers with the kind of money this government has poured into the Lean experiment in our health care system, but we haven't. In fact, we've seen far too many negative outcomes in our hospitals and care facilities, and that's frustrating," said NDP Health critic Danielle Chartier. "It's also frustrating to see who experienced the real benefits of the Sask. Party's Lean experiment: American Lean consultants, Japanese Lean senseis, and a select group of senior insiders who were trained at taxpayers' expense and are now private Lean consultants."

On April 16, 2015, the Deputy Minister of Health told a legislative committee that those who receive special Lean Leader training at taxpayers' expense "have to do a five-year return service." The Opposition New Democrats are questioning why that doesn't seem to apply to these four former senior health administrators.

"If there's a return service requirement for this special training, then this government should be seeking reimbursement from John Black and Associates and the new consulting firm, because those consulting companies are the ones benefiting from the massive training cost, and because $1.8 million could hire a lot of care aides," said Chartier. "With stories like this, no wonder more and more Saskatchewan people are growing tired of the Sask. Party government's misplaced priorities and bad choices. We need a government that invests in the front lines of care, instead of wasting so much money on an endless stream of consultants."

The conservative estimate of $1.8 million in total costs includes almost $1.4 million in approximate training costs, paid to John Black and Associates, as well as the approximate cost of salaries and stipends while the senior administrators were away from their jobs for training. To obtain Lean Leader certification through John Black and Associates, senior administrators are required to take 80 days away from their jobs for full-time training. A 7-day trip to the United States to tour an air-bag factory is also required. The training cost estimate also includes the cost of training new senior Lean Leaders, or "Kaizen Fellows," to replace these senior Lean Leaders who have left. Three senior health administrators have been away from their regular jobs for approximately one year in order to be trained as Kaizen Fellows, and the government has confirmed that those positions have been back filled. The $1.8 million estimate also includes the $395,000 severance package given to the former health region CEO.

The estimate of $1.8 million in total costs does not include costs of workshops or other Lean events which are required as part of Lean Leader training, the costs of "Lean Guiding Coalition" meetings, or the cost of travel within the province for Lean-related events, because the government has not made such detailed information readily available.

The Sask. Party government is currently advertising for Lean consultants to work in the education system, a move which has been sharply criticized by the Opposition New Democrats.