NDP Health Critic Vicki Mowat joined Marea Olafson, a teacher living near Wynyard who has become an advocate for her grandmother, to raise concerns about how understaffing in long-term care is putting residents at elevated risk during a pandemic.

“Understaffing of long-term care is a serious problem in Saskatchewan, as Marea’s grandmother has experienced these past months,” said Mowat. “We know that frontline care workers are working incredibly hard under difficult circumstances and understaffing by this government is putting them in impossible situations. Especially during a pandemic, we need urgent action to address that understaffing, for the safety of residents, of staff, and of families.”

Olafson’s grandmother, Ellen Ross, is a 93-year-old retired nurse from Saskatoon who was recently placed in a long-term care home in Foam Lake. With the understaffing the home is experiencing, Ross complains she “has never felt so filthy in her life,” that she only gets to wash her hands with soap and water once a week when she has her bath, and that when she uses the call button to use the washroom the call often goes unanswered.

“My grandmother has already cursed me that she hopes when I’m 93, I have to go through what she is, so I’m speaking out to anyone who will listen,” said Olafson. “I am disappointed that there are no provincial regulations on resident-to-care-worker ratios, just very vague guidelines. We have to do better by our elders than what they are currently forced to endure.”

Olafson wrote to the Health Minister and the Premier on July 8 to raise her concerns with her grandmother’s treatment, and to challenge the Premier to learn more about the situation facing Long-Term Care residents.

“As a teacher, we run role-playing exercises for students all the time on how government works — well, maybe it’s time our government understands how long-term care works,” said Olafson. “My message to the Premier is this: Come walk a mile in my grandma’s shoes, then tell me there are no problems with seniors’ care in Saskatchewan.”