Inmate programming, hand washing issues in hospitals among concerns of Sask. auditor

Provincial auditor Judy Ferguson also said correctional staff is not completing inmate risk and needs assessments in the amount of time dictated in their policy.

Correctional staff sometimes not completing risk assessments in allotted amount of time, report says

Provincial auditor Judy Ferguson released her most recent report on Tuesday, it examined, corrections programming, hand washing in hospitals and biopsy result delays. (CBC)

Some Saskatchewan inmates are not getting the rehabilitation programming they are supposed to before they are released back into the community, according to a new report by provincial auditor Judy Ferguson.

In seven out of 30 files examined, inmates did not get the programming. 

"Unfortunately, there's inmates that aren't receiving the rehab that was identified prior to them being released. Research clearly shows, rehabilitation does reduce recidivism," Ferguson said.

The auditor's office reports on how well government agencies are following policy. The latest report was released Tuesday.

Ferguson also said correctional staff is not completing inmate risk and needs assessments in the 28 days dictated by policy. Corrections staff also don't have a good way to monitor completion or timeliness of these reports.

In nine of the 30 files examined, staff were completing these assessments 15 to 120 days later than is policy.

Ministry of Corrections and Policing spokesperson Drew Wilby said that for individuals on remand, programming can be tricky. Wilby said the length of stay for an individual can be from one day to five years and in some cases. He said, in some cases, defence lawyers advise clients not to enter into programming as it may imply guilt.

"Rehabilitation is a core focus of the ministry. It's important that we have these offenders rehabilitated so that they come out of correctional facility into the community or the community into society and they have the skills to deal with the needs of society," Wilby said.

Hand washing concerns at Regina hospitals 

Ferguson also found that despite the solid policy the Saskatchewan Health Authority has for preventing hospital-acquired infections, staff are not washing their hands as often as they need to be.

Hand-washing rates were "consistently" below the 100 per cent target rate.

Ferguson also said the method of testing is flawed and goes against guidelines because higher-up staff would openly observe hand-washing habits rather than doing a blind audit.

"We're encouraging them to follow good practice that the Ministry of Health has set out - that you are being observed when you don't know you're being observed, and that also it's someone independent of your unit that is observing you," she said.

The SHA said it will implement blind audits to ensure hand washing routines improve. (Jean-Paul Pelissier/Reuters)

Ferguson said the Regina hospitals should figure out which units are the worst and focus on improving hand-washing routines. She said patients can also play a role in holding hospital staff accountable.

"Don't be afraid to ask them (staff) 'did you wash your hands?, " Ferguson said.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority said it will be implementing new practices to improve hand washing, including blind audits.

"It is what they do when we're not looking that we are going to most try to focus on now," said Jessica Minion, medical director of infection control in Regina for the SHA.

"We're asking (our staff) to wash their hands dozens if not hundreds of times a day," she said.

Biopsy results delayed

Surgical biopsy wait times are also an issue. Ferguson's report said that as of September, in both Regina and Saskatoon, there are about 1,300 biopsies in backlog that still need to be analyzed.

Labs in both cities took longer than expected to come back with results. 

Ferguson said routine biopsies should take five business days and more complex ones should take up to 15 days.
In Saskatoon, the lab average was 12 days, while Regina's was closer to 19.

"The Authority needs to take a consistent province-wide approach to analyzing, diagnosing, and prioritizing surgical biopsies," Ferguson said in her report.

"When patients have to wait longer than needed for a diagnosis, it can causes additional stress, and may result in reduced quality of life and/or chance of survival." 

Child abuse and neglect investigations

The ministry received 15,000 reports of child abuse and neglect in 2017-2018, according to Ferguson's report. Around 40 per cent of them were investigated. Ministry staff screens allegations, then decides whether an investigation is warranted or not. These are called screening decisions.

Ferguson praised the Ministry of Social Services for having "many good policies" around investigation of alleged neglect and abuse, but she also found that staff didn't always follow policy.

The ministry requires an independent second review of screening decisions, but Ferguson found that these didn't always happen — especially when the initial screening determined an investigation was not warranted.

with files from CBC's Adam Hunter

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