Saskatchewan

Travel for Lean project questioned at legislature

The opposition NDP is calling on the provincial government to cancel a number of trips associated with the Lean program.

More than 100 health care workers are set to travel to the United States for Lean management training.

Saskatchewan Health Minister Dustin Duncan said the trips are essential, in part because they are already paid for. (CBC)

The opposition NDP is calling on the provincial government to cancel a number of trips associated with the Lean program.

At the Saskatchewan Legislature Tuesday, it was learned that more than 100 health care workers are set to travel to the United States for Lean management training. One trip includes a tour of an air bag factory in Utah.

Lean is a program that's supposed to improve efficiency and the quality of care in the province's health care system. An outside consultant has been leading the program.

On Tuesday, the NDP said the trips should be cancelled to conform with another government initiative announced in December, which bans non-essential travel.

However, Health Minister Dustin Duncan said the trips are essential — in part because they've already paid for the training.

"I think if there wouldn't have already been a financial cost related to the remaining trips to the end of March of this year as well as well as the potential for recourse being taken for not fulfilling our end of the contract we would have had to make a different decision," Duncan said.

According to the province, the government has paid $40.5 million dollars on the Lean contract, including travel costs, as of the end of January.

Officials claim the program has generated savings of $125 million.

Opposition leader Cam Broten, of the NDP, said the figures provided by the government are not — in his view — reliable.

"Government is totally lowballing how much they've spent," Broten said Tuesday. "They're not being up front about how much they have spent and they're dreaming up these savings and making up these spreadsheets to have some story to trumpet and tell."

Duncan said Saskatchewan's health care system is very large and the Lean trips are important.

"The health system is a $5 billion system with over 40,000 employees so the important part of the American tours is not only a part of ensuring we have lean leaders in the province — and we're going to have a couple hundred of them by the end of March, additional by the end of March — but also so people can see the art of what's possible."

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