12/29/2014 12:54 EST | Updated 02/28/2015 05:59 EST

Saskatchewan cancels contract with U.S. firm delivering Lean health-care program

REGINA - The Saskatchewan government is ending early a contract with an American consulting firm hired to implement a controversial health-care program.

Health Minister Dustin Duncan said Monday he has given notice to end the contract with John Black and Associates next March. The contract was to expire in June, with an option to extend it to September.

The company was to be paid $40 million over the past four years to streamline health services and reduce spending under the Lean program. The government revealed last month the total cost of the contract will end up being closer to $35 million.

Duncan said more than 200 health-care staff have received their Lean training and can now take over running the program. Ending the contract three months early will also save money.

"It no way means that Lean is coming to an end in Saskatchewan," Duncan said.

"We're going to continue on with implementing Lean into the health-care system here in the province. We've seen some good results."

The New Democrats have long criticized the Lean program, arguing that it ignores concerns from front-line workers, and repeatedly called on the government to scrap it.

The Opposition has also criticized the government's contract with John Black, which included $2.7 million for consultants' travel costs between July 2014 to November 2015. The government also paid the company $85,000 to pitch its services before signing the contract in 2012.

Premier Brad Wall has said the Lean program has been successful and already paid for itself with savings on the design for the new children's hospital in Saskatoon and a new hospital in Moose Jaw.

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

— With files from CKRM