Sask. budget: Province commits $6M for 108 new long-term care aides in 2021
Funding follows promise madeduring the fall 2020 provincial election
The Saskatchewan government is moving ahead financially on a fall election promise to gradually hire hundreds more continuing care aides for long-term care in the province.
The province says it will spend $6 million in its 2021-2022 budget to hire about 108 new aides to work inside long-term care homes and in people's private homes under the home-care system.
The provincial budget was unveiled on Tuesday. It was the first to be released since the COVID-19 pandemic was tied to dozens of deaths in Saskatchewan long-term care homes, many of them during the pandemic's second wave.
The funding for more aides also comes after several months of the Saskatchewan NDP calling on Scott Moe's government to hire new long-term care aides more immediately.
Total cost: $18.4 million
Exactly how the 108 new continuing care aides hired in 2021 will be divvied up between long-term care homes and private homes is unclear, though the Saskatchewan Party did give some indication of its intentions when it made the promise during the fall 2020 provincial election.
Under that plan, 300 aides would be hired at a total cost of $18.4 million. One-hundred and eighty of the 300 aides would go into long-term care homes, which have been criticized before and during the pandemic for being inadequately staffed.
"One new care aide for every 50 residents of long-term care facilities," the Saskatchewan Party said of the 180 new aides.
The remaining 120 aides would visit people in their private homes, with about half of those intended for rural and remote areas.
The Saskatchewan NDP criticized the province Tuesday for not hiring all 300 aides immediately.
"Last session, they said they were already hiring," Sask. NDP Leader Ryan Meili said. "Instead they'll only be hiring 100 this year. This despite the fact that in their own election costing document, they included those 300 staff in each year of their mandate."
Everett Hindley, the minister in charge of issues affecting seniors, said the government would to try to hire the balance of aides "as quickly as we can."
Other long-term care budget highlights
The province's total 2021-2022 health budget comes to $6.54 billion, an increase of $359 million, or 5.8 per cent, from the previous year.
Millions of dollars are being earmarked for two new long-term care facilities:
- $3.6 million for a new home in Grenfell, which is still at the design phase.
- $7.6 million, specifically for development work and land acquisition, for a new 80-bed long-term care facility in La Ronge.
The government is also setting aside $500,000 to plan the "replacement of long-term care beds in Regina." No other details were provided.
Hindley said the money will go to "expanding the scope" of existing plans to replacement long-term care beds in Regina, including those at the Saskatchewan Health Authority's Pioneer Village facility. He said private home replacements would also be considered.
One of the facilities hardest hit by the pandemic's second wave, the Parkside long-term care home operated in Regina by private owner Extendicare, dates back to the 1960s and has been flagged numerous times during provincial inspections for its deficiencies, including four-person bedrooms that Extendicare itself has acknowledged contributes to worse spread of COVID-19.
Talks between Extendicare and the province about replacing Parkside and the company's other, equally-aged homes in Saskatoon, Moose Jaw and other areas of Regina have occurred for years. In 2014, the government allocated $1.5 million for "planning associated with the Regina Extendicare replacement."
No replacement plans have been announced, however.
The 2021-2022 budget also set aside $550,000 to plan new long-term care homes in Watson and Estevan.
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with files from Adam Hunter