Extra consultant job at Santa Maria not enough: NDP

Families of seniors in care facilities, staff and the NDP have raised very serious concerns about short-staffing on the front lines while administration and middle management becomes bloated, yet the government’s solution to the crisis at the Santa Maria Senior Citizens Home is simply to add a consultant and new oversight committee.

The creation of the consultant position and a committee was announced by the government Thursday in response to allegations last week that a resident had been physically assaulted by a staff member at the Regina care home. Santa Maria has also been plagued by concerns about short-staffing and resident neglect, as have most other care facilities throughout the province.

“I think the government and I are on the same page when it comes to the need for criminal charges when abuse takes place,” said NDP Leader Cam Broten. “There is no justification for abuse or physical violence toward a resident, and I accept no excuse. The appropriate response to that is a criminal investigation, and I’d like to see the investigation and subsequent charges move forward as quickly as possible.

“But, at Santa Maria and at care homes throughout the province, we keep hearing that there are very serious problems of neglect and critical incidents resulting in premature deaths. These kinds of things are not happening due to a lack of managers – they’re happening because there are too many managers and consultants and way too few front-line workers on each shift.”

Broten called for a special administrator to replace the current management of Santa Maria last week.

“Instead of adding a consultant and a committee while leaving the current administration in place, this government should have replaced the current management with a special administrator. Serious allegations of abuse and obvious patterns of neglect have happened on the watch of this administration. Staff says they've raised major concerns, and are ignored and dismissed, both by government and the management at Santa Maria. This care home doesn’t need more consultants – they need new management. That's why a special administrator should be brought in immediately.”

Three Santa Maria care aides spoke to media and the NDP last month. They said instead of adding valuable continuing care aides to deliver hands-on care to seniors at the troubled care home, this government has been adding administration and efficiency experts that follow the care aides, pushing them to spend less time with each resident. They reported that Santa Maria schedules just two staff for 49 residents at night.

About 60 workers at Santa Maria sent a letter to the minister of health in June, describing serious quality of care concerns resulting from short-staffing on the front lines and a lack of training for staff. The minister dismissed their concerns. In November, the family of Margaret Warholm came forward to describe how short-staffing and neglect at Santa Maria resulted in her suffering and premature death. Warholm’s medical records show she was emaciated and malnourished, had painful untreated broken vertebrae from being dropped and was suffering with a massive bedsore, leaving patches of her back without skin. 

“This government just isn’t getting it. Adding one consultant cannot and will not solve the larger problems at Santa Maria – but having enough staff to care for people properly could make a big difference,” said Broten.

Broten has proposed minimum quality of care standards, a residents in care bill of rights – which a current bill from NDP Health critic Danielle Chartier would create – and a seniors care advocate to help families before their loved one is in crisis, rather than just investigating the tragedy afterwards.

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For more information, contact:
Erin Morrison, NDP caucus