Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wall government stalling release of EMS Review final report; draft recommendations presented to Health Minister Don McMorris in April

After saying it would be made public months ago the Saskatchewan Party government is now stalling the release of the final report by the committee it established last year to review the province’s emergency medical services (EMS).

Health Minister Don McMorris announced the review on December 11, 2008. The government news release said the review would be conducted in consultation with the ambulance industry and regional health authorities. It was expected to be completed in the spring of 2009.

Don Cummings, an Edmonton-based consultant with experience in health system issues, was appointed chair of the EMS review committee.

Other committee members include:

Mike Redenbach, Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region
Rod MacKenzie, Saskatoon Health Region
Duncan Fisher, Saskatchewan Health
Patrick O’Byrne, Saskatchewan Health
Ron Dufresne, Saskatchewan Emergency Medical Services Association
Trevor Dutchak, Saskatchewan Emergency Medical Services Association

Its recommendations will reportedly focus on pre-hospital and inter-hospital transfers, and will form the basis for a long-term plan to improve the province’s road ambulance services.

In response to an access to information (ATI) request made earlier this year for records concerning the review, Saskatchewan Health said in a letter dated March 23, 2009, that the committee’s final report “will be published within the next 90 days. The approximate date of publication is April 30, 2009.”

There’s been no sign of the report since.

On September 9, 2009, in response to a follow-up ATI request for a copy of the study, a Saskatchewan Health official said, “At this time, we are unable to provide this document because the report has not been finalized.”

This is odd considering a health ministry briefing note dated April 15, 2009, suggests it’s practically finished.

“The committee, is nearing completion of the final report and the Ministry would like to provide the Minister an overview of the draft recommendations of the report,” said Patrick O’Byrne, the health official that prepared the note.

“The EMS Review Committee has been meeting since November of 2008 and has pursued a very aggressive timeline to complete the report. Extensive stakeholder consultations have occurred.”

O’Byrne said the committee “has developed a strategic vision for EMS as well as recommendations for a five-year plan to achieve this strategic vision.” The strategic vision in the paragraph that followed was blacked out by ministry officials.

According to the report the recommendations are quite numerous and are grouped into three sections:

– Recommendations that are designed to deal with immediate issues in the system;

– Recommendations as to infrastructure issues; and

– Recommendations that lead to achievement of the strategic vision.

Attached to the briefing note was a four-page summary of draft recommendations but the health ministry is refusing to disclose any part of this record.

One thing is clear, though, and that is the final report is surely done and ready to go but for some reason the Brad Wall government does not want it released yet.

Currently pending as well is the province’s Patient First Review led by commissioner Tony Dagnone, the former head of Saskatoon’s Royal University Hospital. This two-part review was launched November 5, 2008.

According to a January 7, 2009, news release Dagnone will provide his report to the health minister by summer of this year.

It might be that the government is contemplating releasing the Patient First and EMS reviews simultaneously. There have been concerns from the start that both could involve more private sector involvement in the health system.

Last summer McMorris confirmed that the government is open to looking at an increased private role in health care as part of its “patient-first review.”

Dagnone, whom the Saskatchewan Party government retained to provide advice on the study’s terms of reference, told the StarPhoenix that the review may examine controversial areas such as contracting out of support services or the restructuring of health regions. [McMorris looks at more private care (Leader-Post, July 26, 2008)]

In a June 27, 2008, letter to then Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce president Dale Lemke, McMorris said: “The private sector can and does deliver health services effectively within a publicly funded system. This is clearly the case with respect to ambulance and medical laboratory services. We will continue to examine whether there are benefits to further private delivery in publicly funded, publicly administered health services.”

Morris was responding to a resolution that was passed at the Chamber’s 2008 Conference on Business and Annual General Meeting held in Humboldt May 8 and 9, 2008, recommending that the provincial government promote the establishment of a competitive environment for the provision of health care in Saskatchewan.

A few months later The StarPhoenix reported that the EMS review may look at the delivery model of emergency medical services. Road ambulance services are provided through the health regions, but about 40 operations are privately owned. Another 56 of the ambulance services are publicly owned, while 13 are non-profit. [Review aims to improve EMS service (StarPhoenix, Dec. 12, 2008)]

Previous EMS Review posts:

April 15, 2009
EMS Review: Saskatchewan Health censors committee meeting minutes; SEMSA and health regions “will directly shape” final report

February 8, 2009
Emergency Medical Services: Review examining “all aspects” of pre-hospital & inter-hospital EMS; SEMSA in lead role, health care council left out


At 12:21 AM, Blogger Cathie from Canada said...

I just found your blog and it is excellent -- I like how your posts are so detailed and well researched.
This is a little off topic, but I just want to share this speculation -- in the Riversdale byelection, I thought O'Soup came closer than anybody expected; if Wall hadn't cancelled the Station 20 West funding, just to spite Calvert, might O'Soup have won? So Wall might have cost himself an historic victory just because he couldn't resist taking a cheap shot -- something to wonder about, I guess.


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