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Ombudsman Annual Report 2012

2013-04-25

News

OMBUDSMAN SAYS ONE CONCERN CAN RESULT IN CHANGES FOR MANY

Saskatchewan Ombudsman Kevin Fenwick tabled his annual report today and said he is encouraged by people who make things better for others by bringing issues forward. “One person really can make a difference,” he said. “In 2012, we had several instances where someone called with a concern and, as we worked with them and the government agency involved, there were improvements made that would affect a lot of other people.
Some examples are:

  • Emma* had a complaint about a health region’s actions related to fees that she owed to a care facility. It resulted in twelve recommendations that would improve the process for others (p. 13).
     
  • When reviewing Ethan’s* concerns about WCB, Ombudsman staff found that a summary of his file had been provided to the Board prior to the hearing, but not to him. Now, file summaries provided to the Board in advance of a hearing will also be provided to the worker and his or her advocate (pp. 11-12).
     
  • Emery* called the Ombudsman’s office because he had served his time in a provincial correctional centre but wasn’t being released. Staff thought he was to be remanded in custody until a court date came up on another matter, but they didn’t know that the proceedings had been stayed. The Court of Queen’s Bench developed a policy to ensure communication with correctional centres so other inmates would not experience the same problem (p. 7).

*Names have been changed to protect confidentiality.

Two other examples of complaints that resulted in changes for others were the focus of public reports in 2012. Both were requested by ministers who asked our office to look into matters that the individuals had made public. These were In the Name of Safety… A Review of the Saskatoon Health Region’s Decisions and Actions in Relation to the Former Enriched Housing Residents of St. Mary’s Villa, Humboldt, Saskatchewan and Achieving the Right Balance: A Review of Saskatchewan’s Conflict of Interest Policy Respecting the Provincial Public Service Sector.


In the first instance, the experience of ten seniors who had to move on short notice resulted in changes to the way the Saskatoon Health Region will deal with similar moves. Also, amendments to the Residential Tenancies Regulations, 2007 have brought seniors residing in independent living facilities within the protections of The Residential Tenancies Act, 2006.


In the second instance, one man’s complaint about being denied the opportunity to run for municipal office while employed by the provincial government sparked a rewrite of PS-801: a conflict of interest policy that affects thousands of public servants in Saskatchewan.
In addition to seeing a positive effect from complaints brought forward, the office also saw an increase in the number of complaints: from 2,160 in 2011 to 2,495 in 2012. This 15% increase is not limited to any one government agency and appears to be the result of public awareness efforts by the office and of the news coverage of the two public reports.


One area of focus for the Ombudsman has been the health system, and health complaints in 2012 are double what they were five years ago. Combined health system complaints were 78 in 2007 and are up to 186 in 2012. Like the overall numbers, Fenwick sees this increase as a result of improving awareness. “There are still a lot of people in Saskatchewan who don’t know who we are and an even larger number who don’t know that they can also contact us about unfairness in health services, so we will continue to work on that.”
A few of the health system complaints in 2012 are also the result of a change in legislation that took effect in September and that now includes a broader range of health entities in the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction. As this increased jurisdiction also becomes better known, the number of health complaints is expected to continue to rise.


The Ombudsman Saskatchewan Annual Report 2012 is available at http://www.ombudsman.sk.ca/documents_and_files/annual-reports

The Ombudsman is an Officer of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan who promotes and protects fairness in the design and delivery of government services. He has the authority to take complaints from members of the public who believe the government administration has not dealt fairly with them. The office provides a range of services, including investigation (reviews), negotiation and mediation. Government administration includes any ministry, branch, board, agency or commission responsible to the Crown, and any public servant in Saskatchewan. The Ombudsman operates under The Ombudsman Act, 2012.

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Media contact:
Leila Dueck
Director of Communications
Ombudsman Saskatchewan
Phone: 306-787-7369
E-mail: ldueck@ombudsman.sk.ca
 

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