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Time to Show Leadership in Health Care

April Fools’ Day, 2014 marked the start of a new federal health funding arrangement with the provinces. It follows the landmark ten year accord signed by Prime Minister Paul Martin setting terms for predictable annual funding and creating common health standards and goals.

The federal government imposed a new agreement on the provinces without consultation with them.  A new health accord could have gone a long way to address problems currently plaguing the Saskatchewan health system.

Nevertheless, it is essential that government must ensure the public is getting value for money spent on health care by examining and improving on the organization and delivery of services.

It is not sufficient to simply ‘impose’ a Japanese-based lean model on the entire system.  While lean tools have some application in health organizations, those knowledgeable and experienced with the model say applying it in a wholesale manner is inappropriate.

While public relations campaigns waged by government touting lean as an elixir for what ails the health system may be oatmeal for the masses, it is thin gruel for staff who work in it.

Lean depends on being able to change behaviours at all levels in an organization. Unless there is strong leadership to support a change in behaviour, particularly at the health ministry and regional authority levels, lean will introduce strife and confusion among staff, and not have lasting impact.

The health system is comprised of people – staff, patients and the public.  Unless they can see and buy-in to the benefits of change and are partners in achieving it, lean will not be successful in spite of the large sum of money spent on it.

In addition to pushing for a new national accord for health funding and standards, a Liberal  government should take a leadership role in:

  • Rethinking  the broad scale implementation of the lean model in health care
  • Strengthening  health region leadership and hold them accountable for results
  • Monitor and assess regional authority performance through measures such as length of stay in acute care hospitals
  • Improving individual patient/resident case management
  • Requiring the CEO to hold an open staff meeting at least once per year at each facility in the region
  • Developing an activity based funding system for hospitals

Unless government takes steps to support change in a meaningful way the health system will continue to be stressed.

Gerry Hiebert

P.S. We are asking Saskatchewan Liberal Party members to share their views as we shape our party’s platform for the next election. We welcome your comments on our Facebook page, or by emailing

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