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Health-care shortages, corrections practices and PST collection highlighted in Sask. auditors report

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Health-care shortages, corrections practices and PST collection were among the highlights of the Provincial Auditor of Saskatchewan's final report of 2022.

FILLING HARD TO RECRUIT POSITIONS

Tara Clemett, Saskatchewan’s Provincial Auditor, unveiled the report on Tuesday. One of the more urgent topics was the ongoing shortage of health care professionals.

Clemett outlined 31 positions that are classified as hard-to-recruit in the province.

“These positions include key frontline staff like continuing care assistants, medical lab technicians, and registered nurses,” she said.

“As well as an in-depth, in demand positions like cooks in rural and remote areas.”

The report outlined that the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) anticipates a shortage of over 2,000 workers in hard to recruit positions over the next five years.

The province’s health-human resource plan was mentioned by name as the auditor took questions from reporters.

While the plan offers a good start for the province in filling those positions, work in retention and recruitment must continue, according to the auditor.

“I think that plan has created some focus for the health authority and the government,” Clemett said.

“You’re not going to find that staff doing what we’ve been doing in terms of post-secondary. Overall we have a national, Canada-wide shortage. What we would like to see them do is better identify the root causes … ‘What do you need to do to make people want to work in rural Saskatchewan?’”

Metis and First Nation recruitment was a focus in the province’s audit. Utilizing feedback from staff exit interviews was also mentioned.

“It’s not just about getting new people into Saskatchewan, it’s about maintaining the current workforce that the authority has,” Clemett said.

ADDED OVERVIEW OF ADMINSTRATIVE SEGREGATION

Administrative segregation, the practice of temporarily isolating inmates from the general population in correctional facilities, was another highlighted topic.

The Provincial Auditor found that inmates in Saskatchewan were being subjected to longer than recommended periods of isolation through the practice of administrative segregation.

“We found the ministry had 49 inmates on administrative segregation in 2021, 13 of these 49 inmates were on administrative segregation greater than 15 days in row, ranging between 16 and 43 days,” Clemett explained.

“Good practice suggests placement should not be longer than 15 days.”

Due to incomplete record keeping, the auditor and her team could not determine how the isolation was affecting the inmates.

“Inmates are supposed to receive two hours out of cell leisure time each day, but we could not confirm this occurred as expected in many instances as staff did not follow policy and document their daily observations and meeting with inmates through daily reviews,” Clemett said.

“Not completing healthcare assessments increases the risk that inmates already suffering from mental illnesses or other issues may find their medical conditions deteriorate further while on administrative segregation.”

Broadening quality assurance reviews, more training and enhanced written reports to management were recommended by the auditor to deal with the issues.

OPTIMIZING PST COLLECTION

The provincial audit identified several ways of optimizing PST collection by the Ministry of Finance.

PST revenue accounts for about 30 per cent of the total tax revenue for the province, at over $2 billion annually according to the audit.

Clemett explained that audits, vendor outreach, education and collection activities promote compliance with PST legislation. However, a more targeted approach is needed.

“The ministry performed close to 1,200 audits in the past year which generated $47 million in tax revenue,” she said.

“The ministry needs to analyze key trends of noncompliance over time as this will help to determine where to focus its limited resources on areas that will have the most impact in terms of lost revenue.”

The audit outlined that the Ministry of Finance must work faster in its audits and other compliance activities to streamline the process of recovering lost revenue.

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