Union cautions Sask. government against privatizing Regina Pioneer Village care home

A union representing hundreds of health-care workers is calling on the Saskatchewan government to rule out privatizing one of its largest long term care homes.

Regina Pioneer Village facility in process of being replaced, privatization remains a possibility

CUPE has raised concerns about the future of Regina Pioneer Village — one of the largest care homes in the province. (Alexander Raths/Shutterstock)

A union representing hundreds of healthcare workers is calling on the Saskatchewan government to rule out privatizing one of its largest long term care homes. 

"There is strong evidence that shows that private, for-profit long-term care facilities have lower staffing levels, which creates poor quality of care and require residents to pay more for the care they need out of their pocket," said Sandra Seitz, president of CUPE Local 5430. 

Seitz said the union is concerned about the fate of Regina Pioneer Village. 

The publicly-operated facility is one of the largest in the province. It's due for replacement because of mould and maintenance issues. The Saskatchewan Health Authority started searching for replacement options in February 2019.

At the time, it said traditional government-owned operations weren't guaranteed with the replacement facility. A spokesperson confirmed Tuesday that it is still considering options, including third-party ownership or a partnership. 

Seitz said the government should keep care homes within its control — and maintain them properly moving forward. The union said privately-run care homes have been at the forefront of the deadly COVID-19 crisis as waves of death have swept through the homes. 

"Our seniors deserve the level of care that can only be provided by publicly-run care homes in Saskatchewan. The seniors, or anybody seeking long-term care, deserve that level of care."

There has been a slow exodus from Regina Pioneer Village as parts of the facility decay beyond livable conditions. In 2020, some residents were transferred to two private homes: Emmanuel Villa in Emerald Park and Brightwater Senior Living in Regina as part of a two-year contract with an opportunity to extend. 

At the time the SHA said "each personal care home has an agreement with the SHA that clearly defines quality of care expectations for the home" and that there could be an extension of the two year contract.

The union pointed to the decision with the Grenfell, Sask., Pioneer Village home replacement. A spokesperson for the SHA said they considered all options in deciding to move forward with a replacement owned and operated by the SHA. The new 33-bed facility is expected to be completed in 2023. 

"The Grenfell decision proves that they can put the needs of seniors ahead of corporate profits," Seitz said. "We are asking the [Scott] Moe government to recognize the clear evidence that for-profit private care homes deliver lower-quality care, which has resulted in more deaths and infections during the COVID-19 pandemic."