Province vows to fix gaps in corrections medical care

Herald file photo. The Prince Albert Correctional Centre, pictured from inside one of the units.

Representatives from the Ministry of Corrections and Policing say they’ve accepted all nine recommendations from a the 2018 provincial auditors report that criticized medical care at Saskatchewan’s four adult-secure-custody correctional centres.

The report from provincial auditor Judy Ferguson identified a number of areas that needed improvement in order to “provide inmates with the quality of medical care similar to what they would receive in the community.”

Among the many concerns were poor or non-existent orientation training for nurse managers, a lack of centre staff with first aid certifications, poor medical record keeping and slow response times to inmate complaints about medical care.

According to Ferguson’s report one correctional facility has only 65 per cent of staff with basic first aid training. The audit also found that nearly 30 per cent of the time, inmate complaints about medical care were not addressed within five business days as the law requires.

The spread of infectious diseases was also one of the highlighted concerns, with Ferguson writing that occurrences were slightly higher in inmate populations.

On Thursday, Ministry of Corrections and Policing spokesperson Drew Wilby said the message was received loud and clear.

“Some of these things are going to be longer term fixes, and looking at what that model actually is is going to take some time,” Wilby said. “But, we’re committed to getting there and we’re committed to working with the auditor’s office.”

Wilby said he wasn’t sure which facility only had 65 per cent staff with First Aid training, but added that number like that are “unacceptable.”

In a Thursday media conference, Ferguson urged the province to look at alternative models used in other jurisdictions to find inspiration.

Wilby said they’ve launched “a fairly significant review” of correctional facility medical services, and are open to all options. They’ve also started creating a work plan and identifying a timeline for bringing solutions forward.

“We do acknowledge there are gaps (in treatment),” he said. “There’s no doubt there are gaps and we’ll work to try to close those as best we can.”

Wilby added that few of the auditor’s revelations came as a surprise, since they’d heard similar messages from a number of coroner’s investigations conducted over the past year.

The March investigation into the death of Breanna Kannick at White Birch Remand Centre on August 17, 2015 was the most recent example. Although jurors ruled Kannick’s death was accidental, they also gave 10 recommendations for improving staff training and communication, and the ways inmates are monitored, among other reccomendations.