Saskatchewan

Sask. NDP calls for end to for-profit long-term care, reforms in Sask. homes

Opposition leader Ryan Meili says the cost of the transition is better than the cost of losing seniors.

Opposition leader Ryan Meili says the cost of the transition is better than the cost of losing seniors

Forty-three residents have died in a COVID-19 outbreak at Regina's Parkside Extendicare home, which has now been declared over. (Paul Dornstauder/CBC)

The official opposition is calling for an end to for-profit care and Saskatchewan's five Extendicare facilities' management to be transitioned permanently to the Saskatchewan Health Authority. 

"This government failed to act when it comes to solving the crises in our long-term care system," Matt Love, NDP critic for seniors, said. "And more recently, they failed to act as the second wave hit our province.

"The result of these failures is that Saskatchewan families are being let down."

Love said the for-profit long-term care model is broken and companies owning the facilities are generating profits while residents are sick. 

"This is wrong. It betrays the families who have loved ones living here," Love said. "But I also want to say it betrays the folks who come to work here every day." 

The NDP say the change to non-profit care would only affect Extendicare, as it is the only for-profit long-term care provider in the province. 

Ryan Meili, Sask. Opposition Leader, speaks to reporters outside Extendicare Parkside on Tuesday. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

Extendicare has recently been dealing with multiple outbreaks, first at Extendicare Parkside where 41 deaths are connected to the home, then at Extendicare Preston in Saskatoon where the NDP say six residents have died from COVID-19. 

Meili said there's anger in the province because the government knew there was a problem and didn't prepare for the second wave of COVID-19. 

"We know that for years the for-profit model has been failing residents at every level across the country," he said. "But the pandemic has made that all too tragically clear in a much more serious way."

The NDP say Extendicare facilities are understaffed, don't have proper ventilation and overcrowded with four people in one room. 

Meili said there needs to be many changes: 

  • A transfer of all for-profit long-term care facilities to the SHA.
  • Information released about COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care.
  • Immediately hiring 300 continuing care aides.
  • A review committee to address understaffing in long-term care.
  • The Sask. temporary wage supplement program extended for all healthcare workers. 
  • Legislation listing minimum standards for long-term facilities.
  • A standard of a maximum of two people in a room.
  • An independent seniors' advocate for the province.

Meili said transferring the homes to the public sphere would have an immediate impact on reducing the risk of COVID-19 and address longstanding problems. He said he wants to see these changes immediately and the province to buy the facilities. 

The Sask. NDP alleges Extendicare Parkside is understaffed and doesn't have the best ventilation. (CBC)

He said he's not concerned about the cost of buying the facilities and transferring management, but is concerned about the cost of losing seniors. 

"If we'd done these things months ago or years ago when they should have been done … We would have saved dozens of lives," Meili said. 

Variant a 'real risk' in Sask.: NDP

Meili said when it comes to the new variants of COVID-19, there is a race between the spread of the variant and the vaccine being administered. 

"We definitely need to be considering the variant as a real risk here in Saskatchewan," he said. "Frankly, until the vaccine is in the arms of every senior in this and other facilities across the province … those variants put us at great risk."

Meili said there should also be a clear plan for the vaccine rollout as people are confused about when they should expect to receive their dose. 

Clarifications

  • A previous version of this story stated there were 43 Parkside Extendicare deaths. The province has since clarified its outbreak death definition and says there are 41 deaths connected to the outbreak.
    Feb 02, 2021 4:34 PM CT

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