Government ignored safety warning before senior’s death

New information from Providence Place’s union revealed Wednesday the government was warned of dangerous conditions two months before a resident’s tragic death in a Moose Jaw seniors care home.

“The Sask. Party government chose to ignore a crystal clear warning that the staffing levels at Providence Place were putting the safety of vulnerable seniors at risk,” said NDP Health critic Danielle Chartier. “A man died, and other seniors are being put at risk by low staffing levels. They need and deserve for this government to stop brushing the seniors care crisis under the rug.”

Every member of the board at Providence Place as well as the CEO of the care home, an affiliate of the government’s health region, each received a letter from SEIU-West in January 2015. The letter warned that staffing levels were “unsafe” and presented a hazard to the seniors living there.

Just two months later a resident with dementia wandered unsupervised into another resident’s room, ate laundry detergent pods he found there, and died.

Last week, a recently retired continuing care aide (CCA) from Providence Place, Eunice Blanchard, spoke out publicly about short staffing putting resident’s lives at risk. Blanchard revealed the case of the resident who died after eating the detergent pods – a death the government admitted to knowing about under questioning from the Opposition, although it had been publicly silent.

“If the government had taken that warning seriously, maybe yet another family wouldn’t be mourning a tragic death that shouldn’t have happened,” said Chartier. “Maybe another senior would not have had to live out his final days or minutes in pain from neglect or a horrible, avoidable incident.”

Front-line workers at Providence Place have told the Opposition that the only staffing change they've seen in the past few years is a four-hour Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) position added on the evening shift, accomplished by pulling the LPN from the geriatric assessment unit and replacing her with a CCA pulled from the Maguire Centre, leaving both units not staffed appropriately.

Prior to the death of the senior in Moose Jaw, the Opposition New Democrats had raised six other cases of premature deaths of seniors.

Margaret Warholm, Fern Chingos, Lorne Rowell, Jesse Sellwood, Sheila Irene Hohne and Lois Rein each suffered a tragic and often painful death.

“These seven seniors, and many more families who have spoken out publicly about neglect as a result of a lack of minimum standards and chronic short-staffing, are likely representative of many more,” said Chartier. “This government has ignored warnings, ignored reports from its own health region CEOs and overlooked requests from health regions for more staff. For the sake of all seniors in Saskatchewan – those in care now, and those who may need care in the future – it’s time for this government to stop denying the problems in seniors care and start addressing them.”

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