Question Period: March 20, 2012

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, it is our understanding from discussions with people inside Eastern Health that the wireless patient monitoring machines being used at the Health Sciences Centre were removed from two places in Quebec and are not used elsewhere in the country.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Health and Community Services: Would she please confirm this information?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, I really do not know what the ministry in Quebec is doing in terms of the operation of their hospitals, and I do not purport to know that. What I do know, however, is that there are 2,600 of these patient monitoring systems throughout Canada in some of the largest hospitals in Canada, Mr. Speaker. One hospital, as I said earlier, is the Toronto sick children’s hospital, and there is a second one as well in Ontario that is a huge hospital, Mr. Speaker.

We have had years of using these monitoring systems in other parts of the country, Mr. Speaker, with great success. The same has been true here, Mr. Speaker. There are some anomalies, there have been some problems along the issue of Wi-Fi, Mr. Speaker, but we are working those issues through.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

I suggest to the minister that she find out why Quebec had to get rid of the ones they were using there. Mr. Speaker, for the five months that the wireless patient monitoring devices have been installed at the Health Sciences Centre, they have not been working and have been eating up precious nursing hours while nurses monitor the monitors. Mr. Speaker, Eastern Health said that bugs are being worked out, as the minister has just said, before they continue installing more wireless devices.

Mr. Speaker, would the minister please give us a timeline on when the equipment will be fully functioning? Five months is a long-time to work out the bugs.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, the issue is not the equipment. I need to reiterate this; the issue has to do with the linkage between the equipment and the Wi-Fi, so that when the patients who are mobile actually enter an area of the hospital where it does not pick up for those few seconds, that becomes the issue. The monitoring system that they are wearing, Mr. Speaker, is still working – it is still working, and it is working very, very efficiently, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

I suggest to the minister that there is more to it than she has just explained here, and that even if that were the only bug, that bug has to be gotten rid of, Mr. Speaker. The situation that has been described to us is beyond what she is saying.

Mr. Speaker, it has come to our attention that there have been hundreds of occurrences officially reported having to do with the malfunctioning of these monitors.

So I ask the Minister of Health and Community Services: What is the official procedure with dealing with such a large number of occurrence reports on a piece of equipment that is reportedly malfunctioning, no matter what the reason?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, there have been no adverse events reported at all with the use of this equipment. There has been no patient harm reported whatsoever. We are working through with the nurses and those who are using these monitors at Eastern Health. They are working through the problems with the nurses. Meeting after meeting has been scheduled, and will continue to be scheduled until the bugs are worked out. Patient security, patient safety is still paramount, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS MICHAEL: Mr. Speaker, the Cameron Report noted in 2009 that Eastern Health was in the process of implementing an electronic occurrence reporting system. The report recommended that all regional health authorities have the same system and work together to prevent repetition of adverse events. Mr. Speaker, government committed at that time to expand the Clinical Safety Reporting System to all regional health authorities who would work together in its implementation, with an estimated completion date of March, 2012.

Mr. Speaker: Can the minister give an update on the plan to expand electronic occurrence reporting to all health authorities, to prevent adverse events?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, certainly, what we learned from Cameron is exceptionally important to us as a government, and as a people here in Newfoundland and Labrador, and we will never underestimate that. Mr. Speaker, I am happy to say that today, we have either implemented completely, or substantially implemented fifty-five of the sixty recommendations. In this sitting of the House, Mr. Speaker, I plan to bring forward more recommendations – at least three more recommendations having to do with, in particular, adverse events.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: That, Mr. Speaker, will be one of the recommendations.

Mr. Speaker, last May the Minister of Health and Community Services amended the Third Party’s private members’ motion on diabetes to say that the House will urge the government to give consideration in the next budgetary process to covering the cost of glucose testing strips for all diabetics.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister: Has her government taken this action to include coverage of glucose testing strips for all diabetics who need them?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, through the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program, we cover glucose test strips as the member opposite certainly knows, 16,000 beneficiaries at a cost of $5.7 million annually. Mr. Speaker, we are committed to ensuring - as with all patients who suffer from chronic diseases in Newfoundland and Labrador, we are committed to ensuring them the best health care that we possibly can.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for The Straits – White Bay North.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MITCHELMORE: Mr. Speaker, in reply to my questions on the air ambulance service that government took away from St. Anthony, the Minister of Health said the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are very, very well-served by this service. Mr. Speaker, I asked her to let the people who pay for it, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, to be the judge.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister: Will she table the associated cost of St. Anthony air ambulance service before and after the relocation of this service from St. Anthony to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, including the cost of chartered flights flown out of St. Anthony for the years since the relocation of the air ambulance?

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am not sure what the question he is asking or why he is asking that particular question. What needs to be asked is how many incidents have really been at the heart of the issue that he is trying to raise over there, Mr. Speaker. The answer to that is zero.

Mr. Speaker, our concern here is about providing the service that we can to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians through our air ambulance program.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, we have three King Airs right now that we operate within Newfoundland and Labrador; two in St. John’s, one in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, and another that we have in St. John’s as a spare. We have at our disposal six helicopters, Mr. Speaker, five of the Bell 206, one of the Bell 407 that we are currently retrofitting.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: We also have, Mr. Speaker, (inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John’s North.

MR. KIRBY: Mr. Speaker, government announced last week that funding for employment assistance service providers across the Province has been extended for up to six months.

Was this temporary extension granted to allow government enough time to decide this funding should be cut permanently?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister Responsible for Advanced Education and Skills.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Thank you.

Mr. Speaker, with the new Department of Advanced Education and Skills, we want to ensure that all of the programs and services that we have set up certainly meet the needs of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, as we try to make sure that people have every opportunity to participate in the emerging labour market.

Mr. Speaker, we will look at how we spend the funding that is provided under the Labour Market Development Agreements to ensure and maximize that the people here in Newfoundland and Labrador have every opportunity to be able to avail of skills development to prepare themselves for the labour market.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John’s North.

MR. KIRBY: Mr. Speaker, parents in Newfoundland and Labrador are paying thousands of dollars out of their own pockets to cover private special education services that the education system is failing to provide.

I ask the Minister of Education: Why is this government privatizing special education services in Newfoundland and Labrador?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Education.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, am I hearing the member opposite say that our teachers and our education system is not providing for special education students? Mr. Speaker, I find the question appalling. We have, in this Province, some of the best qualified teachers that we have across this entire country. Mr. Speaker, to suggest that our system is not providing a quality service to our special education students is unthinkable, that someone would even pose that question.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John’s North.

MR. KIRBY: Mr. Speaker, many students in this Province are unable to complete high school in three years and must return to school for a fourth year in order to graduate. The graduation rate for these students is 20 per cent lower than the graduation rate for other students.

Mr. Speaker, why does this government have no plan to help these Level IV students graduate and enter the workforce successfully?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Education.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, let me point out to the hon. member our graduation rates. The grad rate in 2002, Mr. Speaker, was 85.1 per cent and in 2010-2011 it was 91.7 per cent.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: The number of students, Mr. Speaker, that have gone from the general program to the academic and honours program has increased. The fourth year of schooling, Mr. Speaker, is there for those people who simply do not qualify and do not complete their education in three years.

It is a wonderful program, Mr. Speaker. It just takes some people that much longer to complete the program – support, Mr. Speaker, for the students of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John’s North.

MR. KIRBY: Mr. Speaker, in nine years this government has done nothing to address the challenges of Level IV students.

I ask this minister: When is his department going to finally act to help vulnerable students, or does he plan to sit on his hands like his predecessor did?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Education.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, the blood boils – yes, the blood boils, Mr. Speaker – when you cannot get the responses that you want to get by posing the questions.

Mr. Speaker, this Province has provided more and this government has provided more for the students of this Province, I would contend, than any other government past.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, our Level IV students will be supported just as will all of the other students within our system, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Unfortunately, the time allocated for Question Period has expired.

Associated Caucus Members: 

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