Record-high number of critical incidents in health care

Government’s Lean program is hurting care

The health system caused more critical incidents in Saskatchewan’s hospitals and health facilities last year than in any other year – another indication the government’s Lean overhaul of health care is making things worse instead of better, according to the NDP.

The Ministry of Health annual report shows 195 critical incidents for the 2013/14 fiscal year. That’s up from 161 a year earlier and 127 the year before that. Critical incidents are defined as the actual or potential loss of life, limb or function caused by the health system.

“The government has got to stop focusing on its obsessive pursuit of Lean efficiency and start focusing on the basics in health care,” said NDP health critic Danielle Chartier. “Resources have been cut back and the government has instituted an often-nonsensical Lean system for doctors, nurses and health professionals. Instead of spending untold millions on the Lean management system, this government should be using those resources on the front lines of care.”  

Critical incidents have increased in several categories. More patients were harmed or killed by medication or fluid errors, incorrect diagnoses or problems during surgery. The numbers of patients who went missing from a facility or died from a fall was also higher.

“These tragic events point to a lack of staff, and a lack of time for health professionals to do their jobs to the best of their abilities,” said Chartier, who added that a recent Saskatoon Health Region memo indicated only 19 percent of doctors surveyed said they have the tools and resources to be effective.

The NDP has repeatedly raised concerns about the methodology of the government and its Lean consultants, including their insistence on the use of Japanese-inspired terminology; the requirement for health care workers to take Lean workshops that include learning the terminology and folding paper airplanes; and flying Japanese senseis to Saskatchewan. The NDP has also raised concerns about the expense of the government’s Lean initiative. In health care alone, the consultant will cost as much as $40 million while untold millions more will be spent on Lean training, the creation of Kaizen Promotion offices and implementation of the program, plus the senseis’ cost of $3,500 a day.