Sask. small care home operators ask for clarity, consultation
Michell Jesse says communication has created frustrations amid already complicated COVID-19 time
Michell Jesse says personal care home operators in Saskatchewan have been frustrated trying to keep up with government-mandated COVID-19 protocols.
"Bottom line is they should have talked to small personal care home owners at the very beginning," said Jesse, a registered nurse and president of the Association of Personal Care Home Operators of Saskatchewan.
She said the association represent about 50 small homes — with 10 or fewer residents — for seniors around the Regina area. The homes are licensed and regulated by the Ministry of Health.
Jesse is calling for more consultation moving forward.
"I think it would have been a lot easier to mandate personal care homes if they had a good understanding of what our supply chains were."
For example, she said care home staff have been directed to use personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks continually, but access is an issue.
"By the time the mandate came out it was impossible to get masks, so many of us scrambled."
She said they were desperately calling out to local volunteers or donations, but then they received a shipment of 200 surgical masks from the government.
"We're grateful for it. But it's disorganized and it puts us in such a state of panic," she said. "Because you're trying to meet the mandate and you're trying to keep your seniors safe."
She said the private homes she represents typically get supplies from local shops or places like Costco, not large distributors. With the reopening, she said the stock is hard to find.
"It was almost like the government thought that we had medical supply companies that we had developed relationships with, which isn't really true."
The Ministry of Health said it conducted a survey of personal care homes "early on" to understand their PPE needs.
However, Jesse said the homes she represents were not at the table.
The government put out new staff cohorting measures — designed to limit how many different patients any given worker deals with — on April 21, giving care home owners a week to discharge or let go staff.
"We all scrambled to then put into place an action plan," she said, noting it was understood that they pay and benefits are better at the SHA facilities.
She said this created chaos in some facilities. Then, on May 1, after arrangements were made, they received a new directive indicating an exemption. She said they were told SHA would arrange for staff to remain in care homes while being paid the salary they would receive in a government facility.
Jesse said it was already too late, as her staff had committed to government facilities. Now, with no one left to cover absences, she said operators face more overtime pay.
"We hopefully won't burn out the staff."
A government spokesperson said matters related to the cohorting of staff and other public health measures are dictated by the chief medical health officer and were implemented to ensure the safety of these vulnerable citizens.
Jesse said care homes want to protect their seniors and aren't against the directives, but that more people should be consulted. She said they're extra busy right now trying to work with seniors who have experienced a drastic change in the way they live.
With reduced staff, this has been a big challenge.
"Then we have this other thing, these mandates always looming behind us and they seem disorganized and it's like do this one, but then next week they've sent out more information."
Jesse said private homes are the "last in the food chain to get PPE," so it's positive that the government is sending out a second batch of 200 masks, but they're coming at a cost. Jesse said it would be easier if individual homes could dictate how much they need.
"It would be nice if we could have control of that because it helps our budget," she said. "Our seniors that live in personal care homes, they pay for their care. They're not getting subsidized by the government."
Jesse said she still hadn't received clarity on whether that will happen, but that she is in the process of initiating talks with the province.