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NDP calls on province to open up Sask. Hospital records following blocked FOI request

The Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford has faced a number of issues since it was built, including the need for a roof replacement. File / Global News

Following a rejected freedom of information (FOI) request, the Opposition NDP is calling on the province to open the books on the new Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford (SHNB).

“We have a hard time getting information about what’s going on, on the reality of the maintenance and building contracts. Now as we’re asking questions about a P3 project gone very badly wrong; leaking roofs, leaks in the walls, wards that are having to be shut down, water you can’t even drink,” NDP Leader Ryan Meili said.

“We’re hearing those FOI requests aren’t coming back because of the P3 and commercially sensitive information.”

The NDP received notification from SaskBuilds that a third party requested a review of the information that was requested. The NDP asked for correspondence around roof leaks, water damage and other structural concerns at the hospital.

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READ MORE: Roof at new Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford leaks, needs replacing

“If there’s some confidential or proprietary information in the material that’s been compiled, and a request is made of the person that has that proprietary information as to whether it can be disclosed, if they don’t consent to its disclosure the Information and Privacy Commissioner gets involved in terms of whether it should be disclosed or not,” SaskBuilds Minister Gordon Wyant explained.

NDP researcher Katherine Norton, who filed the FOI, said the third party submitted a review request to Information and Privacy Commissioner Ronald Kruzeniski’s office as part of their response. Norton was told there is a backlog of appeal requests, so the review will take a while.

READ MORE: Officials investigating copper, lead levels in water at new Sask. hospital

Kruzeniski said he has not heard about this issue, as an appeal has not come across his desk yet.

Once a review is complete, Kruzeniski can issue recommendations on what he believes should or shouldn’t be released, but his recommendations are not binding.

The commissioner previously requested the government amend legislation to make his recommendations binding, but they declined.

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“It’s not something we were interested in when I was attorney general. We thought the process was fair the way it was, but it’s certainly not something that we’ll close the door on. We’ll have to have a discussion with the attorney general to see if he’s prepared to do that,” Wyant said.

READ MORE: Gov’t initiating audit of new Sask. hospital after water warning

Kruzeniski said he would continue to advocate for an amendment to make his recommendations binding when the opportunity presents itself.

As for the hospital, he can’t speak specifically on this issue yet, but as a general rule when it comes to contracts involving public money.

“I have a general approach about contracts. If public funds go into the contract then citizens need to know the details. Of course, the legislation sets out the exceptions of details that they’re not necessarily entitled to,” Kruzeniski said.

The Central Services Ministry, which oversees government property like the Saskatchewan Hospital, has ordered a facility audit of the new hospital. Wyant said he believes that audit will be made public once it is complete, and the government will determine future action based on that audit.

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Gov’t initiating audit of new Sask. hospital after water warning – Oct 25, 2019

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