Memo reveals 'scathing' criticism of Lean program, NDP says

"Scathing" internal criticisms of the health ministry's multi-million dollar Lean program have surfaced, with one official saying there have been complaints it's insulting, overly rigid and less than effective, the NDP Opposition says.

Opposition asks why controversial program renewed

Saskatchewan Health Minister Dustin Duncan said the translators were part of the contract for Lean. (Stefani Langenegger/CBC)

"Scathing" internal criticisms of the health ministry's multi-million dollar Lean program have surfaced, with one official saying there have been complaints it's insulting, overly rigid and less than effective, the NDP Opposition says.

Lean is an efficiency program that's designed to provide better health care and save the province money.

The government signed a $40-million contract with a private company, John Black and Associates or JBA, and over the summer renewed the contract, the NDP says.

It's been a favourite target for the NDP for months, and on Thursday, in the first Question Period of the fall sitting, New Democrat leader Cam Broten picked up right where he left off. 

He referred to a memo the NDP obtained from the Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region's vice president of quality and transformation, Marlene Smadu.

The memo brought up concerns about PowerPoint slides that can’t be changed, poor quality videos, "didactic approaches" to learning and "activities that are not meaningful and in some cases are insulting."

The approach of the company delivering Lean lessons is not only educationally unsound, but is causing "skepticism, alienation and frustration," the briefing note says.

One person complained that the Lean lessons show a "lack of respect" and that "tattling on leaders" was expected if they questioned the process.

Another complaint was that it involved "rigid conformity in a militaristic style, gossiping, and undermining."

Broten asked why the government would renew the contract in the face of such criticism.

However, Premier Brad Wall said the program is and has been effective, saving money for the public.

"It's working," Wall said. "The boards of the health regions want it to be renewed." 

He said efficiencies identified through Lean have already resulted in more than $50 million worth of savings.

Wall also said that the program that was supposed to cost $40 million ended up only costing $35 million.

He said the the government is exiting the four-year contract after three years and four months and have requested improvements based on the kinds of criticisms Broten was talking about.

Outside the legislative chamber, Health Minister Dustin Duncan said asking for improvements made more sense than scrapping the contract.

"If Lean is about continuous improvement, these are concerns that we have about the way that you're delivering your business, so if you as JBA believe in continuous improvement, show us that you can improve your business," he said.