'Many things' have to change, says new Sask. health authority CEO Scott Livingstone

The Saskatchewan government has appointed Scott Livingstone, the current head of the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency, as the CEO of the province's soon-to-launch health super authority.

CUPE critical of continued health spending on Lean quality improvement offices

Scott Livingstone has been hired to head the new single health authority in Saskatchewan. (Micki Cowan/CBC)

The Saskatchewan government has appointed Scott Livingstone, the current head of the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency, as the CEO of the province's soon-to-launch health super region.

The government announced the appointment on Wednesday morning. 

Livingstone will begin his new role once the Saskatchewan Heath Authority is officially established sometime this fall.

He said one focus in the role will be making things easier for people who use and work in the health system.

Livingstone said with the current 12 health regions, there are often 12 different ways of doing things, which can cause confusion. 

"There's so many things that have to change, but having a senior leadership team, a single governance model, I think will help support decision making throughout the organization and a unified focus of effort and strategy," Livingstone said.

Those changes will take place over multiple years rather than all at once, he said. 

"It's not going to happen simply on Day 1 and folks need to understand that," Livingstone said. 

Scott Livingstone (second from right) has been named as CEO of the province's soon-to-launch health super region. He'll work with Health Minister Jim Reiter (left), chair of the Saskatchewan Health Authority Dick Carter (second from left) and rural health Min. Greg Ottenbreit (right). (Micki Cowan/CBC)

Livingstone is the former CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Information Network, now known as eHealth Saskatchewan. 

"Scott is passionate about health care and brings a strong patient focus to this new role," said Dick Carter, the chair of the new board, in a press release.

A launch date for the new health authority has yet to be confirmed, though the government expects it to be in late fall. 

Livingstone will be paid a salary of nearly $400,000.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said the salary was determined after a review of other health organizations of a similar size. 

Director for board also tapped 

The government also announced that Dr. Preston Smith, the dean of the College of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan, will join Carter on the health authority's 10-member board of directors. 

The new board will replace the current 12 individual health authorities spread across the province. 

Union concerns

Before Wednesday's announcement, the Canadian Union of Public Employees released information critical about the government's ongoing health spending on Lean initiatives, which were intended to focus on rooting out waste in the health-care system.

According to documents obtained through an access-to-information request, there are still 17 quality improvement — or Lean — offices in the health system. 

Between 2012 and 2015, benefits and salaries for full-time employees in those offices totalled about $54 million, according to the documents.

"It is appalling that the government is still spending money on the failed Lean initiative instead of investing in front-line health-care workers," said Sandra Seitz, president of the CUPE Saskatchewan Health Care Council.

A report published last year in a medical journal said for every dollar saved by Lean, Saskatchewan spent $1,511.

As of February 2017, the government had reduced its employees within Lean health-quality improvement offices to 138, down from 173 in 2016.