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Democracy Cookbook: Why we need efficiency committees

The Democracy Cookbook
The Democracy Cookbook

 

By Jill Power

If our government wanted to truly strive for efficiency, it would invest resources into creating an unbiased, non-government committees of experts across a wide spectrum of services.

 

Jill Power
Jill Power

 

These committees could begin by looking at and re-evaluating how we currently approach services like health care and education. The terms of reference for these committees must be clear and the committee membership must be non-partisan. The experts would look to other countries for proven strategies and processes that display forward thinking and success. Based on their findings, the committees would then make recommendations for change, and, most importantly, the government would then implement their recommendations.

In a Provincial Home Support Program (PHSP) Review for the Department of Health and Community Services, released on July 12, 2016, one can see an example of how not to engage committees. In this review, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador states, “Deloitte Inc. (Deloitte) was engaged by the Department of Health and Community Services (HCS) to complete a comprehensive review of the PHSP to determine whether it is operating as efficiently and effectively as possible, to identify opportunities to improve the Program, and to inform changes required to help ensure its future sustainability. … The review consisted of four phases of work over a 16-week period and was guided by a Steering Committee comprised of program leadership from HCS and the four Regional Health Authorities (RHAs).”

At a glance, the concept of engaging Deloitte appears worthwhile. However, as noted, Deloitte was directed by a steering committee of Regional Health Authorities, as well as staff members at Eastern Health.

It could be assumed that these staff might bring significant biases to the table, and truly progressive approaches would rely on objective sources to recommend efficiencies. If open-minded experts are given the freedom to conduct a proper review, research-informed recommendations for improved efficiencies would be the end result.

Let’s consider one basic service that could benefit from this approach. In our province today, an expectant mother has seven prenatal class types from which to choose. It could be argued that prenatal programming could be offered more efficiently without Eastern Health nurses providing direct delivery. In Australia, Childbirth and Parenting Educators of Australia, Inc., a “not-for-profit, voluntary, professional association provides high quality, accessible and responsive education to women and their families during pregnancy and early parenthood.” Instead of eliminating the jobs of these Eastern Health nurses, they could be reassigned to nursing duties needed by our aging communities.

The reality is, current government practices are costing us money in inefficiencies. These include both fiscal inefficiencies and quality of service.

As for education, it is a well-known fact that Scandinavian countries have progressive and highly successful education systems. According to the Conference Board of Canada June 2014 Provincial and Territorial Ranking of High School Attainment, Newfoundland and Labrador scored below average when compared with other provinces in Canada. What might a committee of independent, non-partisan experts recommend to our government leaders on how to improve our education system for our children?

In our province, government provides direct delivery of specialized health equipment. This service is another example of a disturbing trend of inefficiency within government. Committees of unbiased experts would soon discover that in other provinces in Canada (Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, for example) specialized health equipment is provided by non-profit organizations such as the Canadian Red Cross. With highly acclaimed recycling programs in place, these non-profit organizations provide services in a cost-effective and efficient manner. The result is patients are released from hospital sooner and public servants can focus on tasks other than direct delivery.

“Invading” government departments with efficiency committees would inevitably upset many apple carts. Unions would focus on how their employees would lose jobs when committee recommendations were implemented. Governments would argue studies and committees cost taxpayers’ money, and that during a deficit they could not “waste” money on studies and steering committees.

The reality is, current government practices are costing us money in inefficiencies. These include both fiscal inefficiencies and quality of service.

Independent filmmaker Michael Moore’s recent documentary, “Where to Invade Next,” closes with an interview of three Scandinavian women politicians. They state, “every kid should have the same opportunity; the basic opportunity to get education and health care. … It’s just a good society.” They describe their government as being structured with a “we” state of mind, rather than a “me” state of mind, as we see in the Western World today.

Implementing a practice of establishing non-partisan expert committees to study, review and recommend changes is the step needed for the government of Newfoundland and Labrador to have a “we” state of mind — the opportunities are limitless.

 

About the Author

Jill Power (Music, Memorial University of Newfoundland) is an undergraduate student at Memorial University, studying voice with Jane Leibel in the school of music. Outside of her academics, you’ll find Jill at CMHR, the campus radio station, where she hosts her weekly “Morning Show.” Jill is an avid volunteer in her community and takes great pride in the culture and heritage of Newfoundland and Labrador.

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