The Saskatchewan NDP is calling on the government to reinforce minimum care standards for long-term care homes in the province.
NDP Health Critic Vicki Mowat and Seniors’ Critic Danielle Chartier brought up their concerns on a Thursday ZOOM conference with media following the latest from seniors’ care homes in Ontario and Quebec where reports detail “deplorable conditions” in those facilities.
Chartier said she’s thankful the pandemic hasn’t hit long-term care homes in Saskatchewan, but that doesn’t mean the conditions present in Ontario and Quebec don’t exist in our province.
“This is a time when we need to make sure our most vulnerable citizens are safe,” said Chartier.
She mentioned that the Saskatchewan Party government made the decision to cut minimum care standards back in 2011. Chartier admitted those care standards were weak at the time, but said instead of enhancing them and bringing them to standard, the government chose to scrap them.
When asked what the government or Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) should be doing to address these concerns, she noted there’s a need for engagement with residents and staff at care homes to make sure proper care is being provided.
“Even at that time, I was hearing from staff in these facilities who were pointing out to me that ‘nobody is talking to us,’” added Chartier.
The opposition has also requested the government to release this year’s SHA CEO Tour report, which Health Minister Jim Reiter mentioned is an accountability mechanism earlier this week. However the New Democrats say the last time a tour report was posted online for the public to view was in 2018.
NDP Health Critic Vicki Mowat said a robust and honest account of the state of affairs in long-term care in Saskatchewan must be provided in order to protect vulnerable residents.
“I can think of a facility that I visited in the past year when I read the report in 2018. It didn’t mention the fact that the facility was in critical condition, it didn’t talk about all the challenges they have in terms of facilities and management,” shared Mowat. “Those were big issues when we were there.”
The NDP mentioned that the Sask. Party government has defeated an NDP private member’s bill in recent years which calls for minimum care standards to be reinforced in the province.
On Thursday during COVID-19 update from the Saskatchewan Legislature, Premier Scott Moe said it’s his understanding that the past year’s report is close to being ready and will be released “very shortly.”
Speaking on the request for minimum standards of care, Moe felt the points put forward by the opposition are “not true and are not helpful.”
“We most certainly have program guidelines for special care homes which are considered the minimum standards in the province,” suggested Premier Moe.
“They are working because we have very competent, hard-working and dedicated staff in our long-term care homes across this province that are adhering to the guidelines and standards that we have.”