03/13/2014 02:49 EDT | Updated 05/13/2014 05:59 EDT

Saskatchewan NDP says $40 million for health consultants is a cash cow

REGINA - Premier Brad Wall is defending his government's decision to spend $40 million over four years on consultants who look for ways to reduce spending and streamline health care.

The Opposition NDP says the program, known as Lean, has been a cash cow for those consultants.

"We should be able to learn Lean principles and enact them for much, much less than what this government is spending," NDP Leader Cam Broten said Thursday.

The province could have spent that money on more care aides or fixing seniors care, he suggested.

Wall said the program has already paid for itself with savings on the design for a new children's hospital in Saskatoon and a new hospital in Moose Jaw. Before Lean, 42 per cent of mental health and addictions appointments were cancelled in Regina and that has dropped to zero, he added.

The government also says $35 million has been saved on better management of blood and plasma products.

"But Lean's not just about savings. Lean is about reducing time to care. It is about reducing the wait time between the diagnosis and a consultation and actual treatment. It is about managing workplace absenteeism," Wall said.

"So Lean is not just about efficiencies or saving money ... this is also about better care and a more efficient system."

Lean was originally created in the manufacturing sector, but has since been applied to many other sectors and industries.

Saskatchewan is the first jurisdiction in Canada to apply the Lean program across its entire health system.