The provincial government was peppered with questions about the need for improvements to long-term care for seniors in Saskatchewan as politicians returned to Regina for the spring sitting of the legislature.
According to the Opposition NDP, a newly created $10-million fund to address urgent needs at long-term care homes is not living up to expectations.
Cam Broten, lead of the NDP, claimed Monday that there is a large gap between what health regions are seeking from the fund and what the province is providing.
One example, according to Broten, concerned the Saskatoon Health Region's need for several hundred special care aides. Broten said the region was provided with only enough funds for a handful of positions, even though the region trimmed down its request for assistance.
"They only asked for 38 [aides] and even then government came back and said, 'You're only getting 19,'" Broten said. "The number ... really stands out to me."
The government responded by noting that the $10 million is money the long-term care home system did not have six months ago and Health Minister Dustin Duncan hinted that further funding could be coming in the upcoming budget, expected later this month.
Also according to Broten, health regions have asked for other things such as lifts, bathtubs and nurse call systems but have been ordered to scale back their requests.
Documents provided by the NDP show that the Five Hills Health Region asked for nine new nurse call systems at a cost of about $1.1 million. The region said in its request that most of its facilities have old nurse call systems. The documents show the request was dropped in a revised proposal.
The Saskatoon Health Region also initially asked for 100 lifts, saying "current lift inventory is not meeting demands for direct resident care or safety." Its revised request was for 56 lifts.
Duncan said health regions knew the fund was limited when it was created in October and that it had to be shared.
"We asked for the regions to then determine where they would allocate dollars. Then we had to go back to the regions ... because the $10 million would have been spent essentially by ... one health region," said Duncan.
The fund was created after a review of long-term care in Saskatchewan raised concerns that patients are not getting enough baths and residents are soiling themselves because there isn't enough staff to help them get to the toilet. The findings were based on tours of long-term care facilities by CEOs in each health region.