EAST CENTRAL — The provincial auditor is concerned about the effectiveness of the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s maintenance program after examining Saskatoon-area health facilities.
The facilities examined by the audit, released June 6, include the Humboldt District Hospital and St. Mary’s Villa.
“For the 12-month period ending November 2018, the Saskatchewan Health Authority did not have effective processes to maintain health care facilities in the City of Saskatoon and surrounding area,” the audit report said.
The health authority estimates it has $3.3 billion worth of deferred maintenance for health care facilities province-wide. The Saskatoon-area health facilities are thought to account for around $1.5 billion of the estimated deferred maintenance.
The audit found that maintenance records were incomplete, that there was limited tracking of the condition of assets and that maintenance requirements didn’t always match up with assigned priority codes.
It found that the authority made inconsistent decisions when it came to conducting preventative maintenance on similar items.
“Facilities management decided to maintain nurse call systems located in Saskatoon on a monthly basis, whereas for two systems located in rural facilities, it decided to maintain them only when they failed,” the report said.
The audit also found that maintenance was being completed later than planned.
The auditor looked at 30 preventative maintenance requisitions. Of those, 14, or 47 per cent, were not completed within the time frame set out.
“Staff completed expected maintenance tasks between 11 and 251 days after the scheduled maintenance date,” the report said. “One nurse code blue system (a critical asset) received maintenance 178 days later than expected – despite the authority expecting staff to maintain the system once a month.”
The audit found a lack of guidance on prioritizing maintenance within scheduled and reasonable time frames. Finally, it found the authority was basing its preventative budget on historical spending, rather than what was needed to do the work.
One positive note from the audit was that all of the maintenance crews working in the Saskatoon area were found to have the proper qualifications for their job.
Derek Miller, the authority’s executive director of infrastructure management, said the report and its recommendations will be applied as the authority works to create a province-wide maintenance program. Right now, maintenance programs are administered as they were when the province was divided into 12 health regions.
“The report is really good timing for us, because it can be used to help us define what we want to be doing in the future,” he said.
“We see a lot of potential benefits in terms of creating standardized processes and ways of doing our business that's based on the standards and best practice within the industry.”
A source of many of the auditor's problems stemmed from software called Work Manager. Not only was data entry into the software inconsistent, it also didn’t provide any indication of what was changed when something was changed. Old users that no longer had any reason to use the software were still able to log on.
“Those kinds of observations, they're helpful for us to make some improvements to that tool, as it's being used right now,” Miller said. “In the longer term, we want to move the SHA towards a common tool across sites that would better allow us to manage the maintenance activities and assess the maintenance on our assets consistently across all sites.”
Ryan Meili, the leader of the Saskatchewan NDP, told the Humboldt Journal that maintenance has been underfunded, resulting in buildings in much worse shape and needing much bigger repairs.
“It's certainly something that should be on the minds of this government and managers in the system to be maintaining and preventing any problems within our infrastructure,” he said.