Sask. Provincial Auditor Tables Latest Report With Suggestions to Improve Patient Safety, Early Learning

Saskatchewan’s provincial auditor tabled her latest and final report on Tuesday morning.

Of the several items covered in the 2021 report, Provincial Auditor Judy Ferguson highlighted concerns including patient safety at health care facilities, early learning and regulating recreational cannabis.

Patient safety improvements

The report stresses the need for the Ministry of Health to improve reporting of critical health incidents after the audit found there was significant underreporting. According to the report, these incidents are “a serious adverse health event that did or could have resulted in serious harm or death of a patient.”

Ferguson said these incidents are increasing in the province with over 200 critical incidents for the last two years. She mentioned that 91 of these incidents from 2019 to 2020 resulted in a patient dying.

“Research indicates about one-third of critical incidents are preventable,” explained Ferguson. “We call on the health minister to better utilize critical incident reporting to improve patient safety. It should help reduce the degree of injury and the types of critical incidents which occur in Saskatchewan.”

The audit also found the ministry did not encourage prompt critical incident reporting with the Saskatchewan Health Authority submitting critical incident notifications and reports late. Her report states that on average, the SHA took over 100 days to report.

Early learning

The report includes suggestions for the Ministry of Education and Saskatoon Public School Division No. 13 to enhance opportunities for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students to successfully learn and develop academically.

The report notes that both audits identified gaps in data collected needed to measure progress and make informed decisions.

For the Ministry of Education audit, the report focused on the ministry’s processes to evaluate whether the Early Learning Intensive Support Program assists preschool-aged children experiencing disabilities receive a good start on early learning and development. However the report discovered the ministry was not collecting data about the progress of each child in the program.

“Without collecting such data, the ministry cannot determine whether individual children participating in the program receive sufficient support to learn and develop. Nor was the ministry collecting information about actions participating school divisions took to address identified issues with the program,” Ferguson revealed.

Identified issues included teachers not receiving enough support to attend training to enhance skills, and specialized professional supports, such as speech language pathologists, not being sufficiently available to classroom staff.

As for the Saskatoon Public School Division No. 13 portion of the report, Ferguson said the readiness of Saskatoon’s over 1,500 kindergarten students at 77 per cent is similar to the provincial average of 79 per cent – both well below the province’s goal of 90 per cent.

“Some teachers did not use suitable numeracy tools to assess students. Further, the division was not aware and could not explain why some kindergarten students did not participate in ministry-required standard reassessments,” she indicated.

Ferguson added that the ready-to-learn attainment of self-declared First Nation, Métis and Inuit kindergarten students remains significantly lower at 56 per cent.

Regulating recreational cannabis

Ferguson recommends more needs to be done to regulate recreational cannabis in the province.

Her report found the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) has focused on educating companies about operating requirements, but has yet to take more strict enforcement actions on non-compliance.

She said regulating the sale and distribution of cannabis is important, especially in keeping the product out of the hands of minors, which inspections found was not the case at some retail locations in the province.

“What they came across was some of the organizations are not asking customers for identification,” Ferguson mentioned. “As you can appreciate, asking for ID is a key aspect to make sure you are confirming the person is at an appropriate age to buy the product.”

Among Ferguson’s suggestions include a risk-informed inspection plan and for the SLGA to actively monitor whether inspections are completed as planned.

The full 2021 report can be viewed on the provincial auditor’s website.

(CKRM)

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