HALIFAX – Nova Scotia's hospital infrastructure and equipment cannot be adequately maintained under present conditions and will continue to deteriorate under existing funding arrangements, Auditor General Jacques Lapointe said in his latest report released today, Nov. 21.
Mr. Lapointe called for a new, long-term approach to planning capital expenditures across the provincial hospital system and warned that hospital infrastructure and equipment are not sustainable at current capital funding levels.
"Opportunities for savings are not given adequate consideration within the system and decisions about capital spending are not based on usage because the Department of Health and Wellness has little or no information about the extent to which facilities and equipment are used."
The auditor general's audit of hospitals and equipment found inconsistencies in the health department's decisions about which equipment to fund. The department was unable to explain the lack of consistent decision-making. He also reported that preventative maintenance is often not carried out despite being much more cost effective than emergency repairs.
"There is no provincewide, long-term capital planning for the hospital system," Mr. Lapointe said.
Also in the report, the auditor general said market projections for a new convention centre, provided to the government by Trade Centre Limited, lack the analysis and rigour expected for such a significant proposal.
Mr. Lapointe reported that Trade Centre Limited's financial and operational activities were not appropriately managed. The Crown corporation does not have an adequate internal control framework, travel and expense claims are not properly documented and are inconsistent with provincial rules. Certain Trade Centre Limited purchases were also found to be contrary to provincial procurement rules.
The audit analyzed the projections Trade Centre Limited provided government to support construction of a new convention centre in Halifax. The auditor general found Trade Centre Limited's projection of significant growth in convention business lacked support.
"Industry realities such as an excess supply of convention centre space, new competitors and a stagnant convention centre market have not been adequately considered and assessed."
Among other unsupported projections, the auditor general questioned assumptions that international convention business in Canada would continue to grow at pre-recession 1999-2008 levels and that most national convention business in eastern Canada will be split fairly evenly among Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec City and Halifax. The auditor general recommended that government obtain an independent second opinion on the 10-year market projections.
The government says it is satisfied with the market projections and rejected the recommendation.
An audit of the homeschooling program concluded that the Department of Education is failing its responsibility to protect the education rights of homeschooled children by not ensuring they receive adequate schooling.
The Department of Education is unable to determine if home- schooled children are receiving a suitable education, and therefore has no way of knowing when to intervene on a child's behalf, the report said.
The department does not have expected learning outcomes for the home schooled, nor is there any form of independent assessment of their progress. The department does not keep track of students transferring between public school and home schooling.
The Department of Education has promised a two-step strategy to address the problem. The first step will be to correct urgent problems and the second to address more long-standing issues.
Last year there were 850 children registered with the Department as home schooled. The auditor general also found numerous and significant deficiencies in information technology (IT) systems and controls at both Capital Health and the IWK Health Centre.
"Failure can result in events that affect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of personal health information."
The report contains 58 recommendations to improve IT systems and protect personal health information at Capital Health and the IWK Health Centre. Virtually all were accepted. Both Capital Health and the IWK Health Centre, however, told the auditor general their IT systems will not allow them to comply with some requirements of the new Personal Health Information Act, which has passed the legislature and is awaiting proclamation.
The act gives patients the right to limit health care providers' access to their information.
The 109-page report contains 107 recommendations to government. The full report is available at www.oag-ns.ca.