Time for the premier to acknowledge crisis in seniors care and start fixing it: Broten

NDP Leader Cam Broten says seniors and their families can’t afford to wait for action to relieve the seniors care crisis.

Broten is continuing to pressure the premier to recognize that there is a widespread seniors care crisis in Saskatchewan, and seniors and their families need meaningful action to address the crisis. He says the facts that continue to mount should have been a wake-up call for the premier much earlier.

During the fall session of the legislative assembly, family members came forward to share the stories of Margaret Warholm, Jessie Sellwood, Lorne Rowell and Fern Chingos, all of whom died prematurely because of neglect and substandard care in care facilities. Family members of Emily Krushelnicki, Art Healey and Margaret Froess also brought forward their serious concerns about the substandard quality of care their loved ones are receiving in care facilities.

“Everytime a family has come forward to raise very real concerns about their loved one who died prematurely or isn't being cared for properly in a care facility, we've seen the premier try to downplay their concerns and pretend these are just isolated incidents,” said Broten. “I cannot understand why the premier refuses to acknowledge that the problems in seniors care facilities are widespread, and that major changes are needed to deliver the kind of care, dignity and respect that seniors deserve.”

The mounting facts that have been revealed that should have already called the government to immediate action include:

  • This government did away with regulated minimum care standards in 2011 and now relies on very broad guidelines, which even the health minister's own chief of staff has referred to as "extremely general," according to internal documents obtained through Freedom of Information legislation.
  • The government has instituted a policy of not always replacing front-line workers who call in sick or are on extended leave.
  • Last summer, a report from health region CEOs showed short-staffing is a top concern in care facilities throughout the entire province. Resulting problems include seniors being forced to soil themselves and seniors not being given proper nutrition.
  • Several frontline workers spoke out during the fall legislative session to say that the quality of care in Saskatchewan seniors care homes is getting worse, that they are now regularly working short-staffed, and that they no longer have time to properly check in on residents, let alone make them feel comfortable and happy. The frontline workers reported that the common practice is to have just two care aides for about 50 residents at night, and they said the only new resources they have seen have been for new management positions and John Black Lean specialists and layers of management.
  • The independent provincial auditor reported this fall that seniors in care are commonly receiving drugs inappropriately, including antipsychotic drugs being used as a chemical restraint.

Broten is proposing regulated minimum care standards; proper staffing and resourcing on each shift to guarantee those standards can be met; and clear accountability whenever those regulated standards are not delivered upon. Broten is pushing for the creation of a seniors advocate, which Alberta and British Columbia already have. Broten is also pushing for the creation of a Residents-in-Care Bill of Rights, which has been called for by the government's own Law Reform Commission and is the subject of a private member's bill introduced by Danielle Chartier, the NDP's health and seniors critic.

During the fall legislative session, the premier rejected Broten's proposals, saying he would only consider specific, regulated minimum standards if the 'pendulum' swung that way across the country. However, according to the British Columbia seniors advocate, Saskatchewan is completely out of step with the rest of the country due to our lack of regulated minimum care standards.

“It's bizarre enough that the premier talked about waiting for some pendulum to swing across the country before he'll act to fix seniors care, but it's especially ridiculous because it shows he doesn't know how out of step Saskatchewan is right now and it also shows he hasn't been listening to the many families that have come forward with major concerns," said Broten. "Families have been speaking out not to help themselves, but because they see that what’s happening in care homes throughout the province isn't right, and it needs to be fixed for all seniors. The seniors care crisis is real; it’s widespread and it’s past time for the premier to get serious about addressing it.”

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For more information, contact:
Erin Morrison, NDP caucus