Sask. NDP promises improvements to long-term care homes

The Saskatchewan NDP has committed to strengthening standards in the province’s long term care homes.

Residents, families have complained of chronic understaffing

NDP candidate for Saskatoon Fairview Vicki Mowat announces the NDP's commitment to stronger standards in long-term care homes Tuesday morning in Saskatoon. (CBC)

The Saskatchewan NDP has committed to strengthening standards in the province's long term care homes. 

NDP candidate for Saskatoon Fairview Vicki Mowat said at an event Tuesday that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a stark reminder of the importance of adequate staffing in long term care homes. 

"We've seen the impacts that cuts and underfunding of long term care have had in other places across Canada," she said. "Cuts to dignified care for seniors are a bad idea at the best of times. Right now, they're downright dangerous."

Mowat said the NDP is looking to bring back standards of minimum hours of care per resident that were cut in 2011 and replaced by program guidelines for special care homes in 2013. 

"This would help ensure each resident has the time they need with health-care workers to stay safe, to be healthy and to live a dignified life," Mowat said. "It would also relieve the pressure on workers, increase staffing in facilities and ensure caregivers have the time they need to do their job safely."

Saskatoon resident Brenda Cromwell said this policy would have helped her family when her father, who had dementia and required a high level of care, lived in a care home. 

"The care workers who cared for my father did the best they could but sometimes, basic care needs were not met in a timely manner because the facilities were chronically understaffed," Cromwell said.

"Eventually, my brother left his job and between the two of us, we were with my dad an average of 14 hours a day, working two shifts of seven hours each, seven days a week. We did this to supplement my father's care."

Saskatoon resident Brenda Cromwell, whose father spent time in two long-term care homes, said the staffing levels she saw at these facilities were inadequate for residents' needs. (CBC)

Cromwell said she saw how understaffing problems impacted long term care home residents, families and staff.

"I saw seniors trapped in their rooms, waiting for staff to be available to help them go to the washroom," she said. "I found seniors fallen on the floor who could not get up on their own. I would run around the facility to find an aide or a nurse who could help, sometimes having to go out of that unit into another one because no aides or nurses were available. "

Cromwell, a senior herself, said the current situation is unacceptable.

"I want a better system in place if I need assistance as I age," she said. 

According to Mowat, Cromwell's story is not unusual. 

"There are so many stories like Brenda's that I hear almost daily when I'm going around door-knocking and talking to folks," she said. "The care simply isn't there."

Increasing standards in long-term care homes is part of a larger NDP commitment to health-care spending. 

"For years, families, healthcare workers and care homes have called for stronger standards and support," Mowat said. "We're committed to hiring hundreds more doctors, nurses and continuing care workers to help do this work."