Tag Archives: Dustin Duncan

Heckling Grieving Families in the Legislative Assembly

From Murray Mandryk

The pain in Nancy Macfarlane’s voice echoed off the marble pillars in the legislature’s rotunda as she talked about the 30-centimetre bedsore that her late mother, Margaret Warholm, had acquired in Regina’s Santa Maria Senior Citizens’ Home.

“If we had known how bad her back really was, we would have done something,” a tearful Macfarlane said Wednesday, referring to the raw fleshy bedsore she photographed after her mother was admitted to the Regina General Hospital. “But we weren’t told until we saw it in the hospital.”

That was three days before the 74-year-old Warholm – malnourished and weighing 89 pounds, according to her medical report – died on Oct. 6, 2013 Many see the Saskatchewan legislature as a place of anger, sanctimony, studious reflection or maybe even frivolity. But the often-overlooked emotion – especially present in the rotunda when woeful tales like

Margaret Warholm’s are retold into the microphones of reporters – is sadness.

Health Minister Dustin Duncan’s problem is that he has virtually asked to take ownership of every sad tale like that of Warholm.

She had been a Santa Maria resident for two years, having transferred from a long-term care home because of her spinal stenosis. Her pain and mobility issues were so severe she could no longer feed herself or even turn over in bed.

Besides the sorrow and the feeling of guilt that there had to be something more they could have done to ease the suffering their mother endured in her final days, Warholm’s children brought a lot of anger to the legislature.

They are angry over both the medical care and staff at Santa Maria – the latter of whom, the family said, did not pay enough attention to their mother and weren’t forthright about her bedsores. Warholm’s medical records show she had recent spinal fractures – possibly from a fall.

Santa Maria’s executive director admitted earlier this month that “a number of matters related to the care of Mrs. Warholm should have been better managed.”

But the reason Warholm’s children were at the legislature Wednesday was to express their anger toward Duncan. “He failed us,” Leanna Macfarlane said.

Admittedly, such sadness and anger expressed towards the minister can be misplaced. This is somewhat the case for Warholm’s family.

Duncan surely cannot be personally blamed for the specific treatment Warholm received in Santa Maria. Moreover, it was Duncan who first suggested the case be investigated by the provincial ombudsman and on Thursday morning he wrote to the ombudsman requesting a formal investigation. Duncan was respectful, sympathetic and professional Wednesday, unlike unhelpful caucus colleagues Nancy Heppner and Doreen Eagles, who heckled in the chamber that this case was all about “creating drama”. Those heckles presumably were aimed at the NDP Opposition, which raised the issue, but Warholm’s family thought they were aimed at them.

But Duncan is also the minister who told us a year ago – after ordering health district CEOs to tour every nursing care facility in the province – that what was subsequently reported was unacceptable and not the kind of treatment he would expect for his own loved ones.

Yet his government’s response was a mere $10 million for emergency funding (the districts requested $18 million) last fall and there was no additional money in the spring budget.

What is wrong with Nancy Heppner that she would say that a grieving family was in the Legislature “creating drama”.  Really Ms. Heppner and Ms. Eagles?  Their mother died because of neglect from a provincially funded nursing home.  Has politics made you so bitter that every single time someone has a problem with the provincial government that you think it is partisan ploy?  That heckling sickened me.  

Sometimes governments fail their citizens.  It happens under Progressive Conservative, CCF, NDP, Liberal and even Saskatchewan Party governments.  When it involves the death of someone in your care, you don’t heckle, you take responsibility and fix the problem.  If you can’t do that, it’s probably time to retire.

In order to save healthcare in Saskatchewan, we have had to pay $1m in hotel bills

This is getting ridiculous

Since signing the contract with an American consultant in 2011, the provincial government has doled out close to $1 million for his hotel bills.

The contractor is John Black and Associates (JBA), who was signed up to reform Saskatchewan health care through lean – a system to streamline health services and cut costs.

Since the 2011-12 budget year, Black and his colleagues’ flights, hotels, per diems and other miscellaneous travel expenses have collectively cost Saskatchewan taxpayers $2.5 million.

NDP Leader Cam Broten called the amount “obscene.”

And while Health Minister Dustin Duncan admitted “it’s a lot of money,” he said it was important to put it into the context of building up lean expertise in the province so Saskatchewan doesn’t “have to rely on those outside consultants.”

The government knew from the outset it would be spending $40 million on the JBA contract and that “travel was going to be a part of that,” Duncan said.

“This whole journey into lean is a part of trying to make the (health) system more sustainable.”

What’s next, adding Alison Redford to the cabinet?

I am actually not opposed to lean in the same way that others are.  I have read a fair amount about it and have seen what it can do for healthcare.  There were some excellent videos from the Saskatoon Health Region that show how hospital units have saved time, money, and improved patient care.  Those small things add up.

At the same time could the Saskatchewan Party have picked a more polarizing consultant?  $1m for hotel bills.  $2.5m for flight and travel.  What kind of hotels are they staying in.  Even at $250 a night, that is over a decade of hotel rooms and all since 2011.  As @toddintune (who just did the math and tweeted), maybe we need to get the lean consultant a lean consultant to lower hotel costs.

Shelter only place for recovering senior

This isn’t an isolated incident.  Even in Saskatoon.

An 84-year-old La Ronge woman suffering from cancer says she had to recuperate from a broken foot in a shelter for battered women because there was no acute or long-term care space for her in the area.

Barbara Blyth was recovering at home with the help of home care until her furnace quit. While waiting several days for parts to get it fixed, she couldn’t stay at home — and she ended up in the women’s shelter because there was no bed for her in acute or long-term care, she said.

Both home care staff and workers at the shelter treated her very well, Blyth emphasized. The problem is that there aren’t enough long-term care beds in her part of the province, she continued.

“People have lobbied the government for a very long time, but nothing happens,” Blyth said. “I’m displeased — it’s overall a total negation of responsibility for the north.”

Blyth, a retired professional librarian, has remained active in her community, although she’s dealing with cancer now for the third time. Her cancer is incurable, she said.

“People in the north don’t want to have to go south in order to die,” Blyth said. “They want to die with their friends and family.”

The Opposition NDP raised Blyth’s case in the legislature Wednesday. Health Minister Dustin Duncan said he would look into it.

“We’re going to follow up,” he told reporters after question period. “There may be some additional options that may be available to her outside of long-term care.

“But we do know that much like the rest of the province, in northern Saskatchewan the long-term care beds that are available aren’t always where we need them to be,” Duncan added.

He noted the number of beds in the north on the west side of the province exceeds the national average, but the number is low on the east side.