Sask. Health Authority to take over operations at 5 Extendicare homes in October

Regina's Extendicare Parkside is one of five facilities the Saskatchewan Health Authority will formally be taking over on Oct. 9. (Richard Agecoutay/CBC - image credit)
Regina's Extendicare Parkside is one of five facilities the Saskatchewan Health Authority will formally be taking over on Oct. 9. (Richard Agecoutay/CBC - image credit)

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) announced Thursday that it has reached an agreement in principle to take over five special care homes operated by private company Extendicare on Oct. 9.

"This has been a complex process involving the transition of staff, an assessment of assets, and ensuring financial, human resource, and supply chain processes are in place to support stability and continuity of services up to and after the transition date of Oct. 9," the SHA said in a news release.

The SHA release did not provide many details of the agreement — including the cost of the takeover and the impact on jobs —  because it is not finalized.

"Until then, all transition plans for operations and staffing are subject to change," the statement said.

The SHA said it will "assume responsibility for the collective bargaining units and unionized employees as of the transition date and will make offers of employment to non-unionized Extendicare employees transferring to the SHA."

It said this will "ensure our goal of a smooth transition with few changes for residents"

"The SHA and Extendicare are committed to maintaining consistent, safe, and high-quality resident care and will work diligently to minimize impacts to residents, families and staff."

Takeover deal follows Ombudsman report into Extendicare

The SHA takeover of the private care homes comes after the provincial government announced it would be severing ties with the company back in October 2021.

Extendicare's Parkside care facility in Regina was the site of a major COVID-19 outbreak that led to the deaths of 39 residents in 2020-21.

Saskatchewan's ombudsman conducted an investigation in 2021. Mary McFadyen's report laid out eight recommendations, including a call for Extendicare to apologize in writing to the families of residents who died as a result of the outbreak.

In all, 42 Parkside residents infected from November 2020 to January 2021 died during the outbreak, 39 of them as a result of COVID-19.

"Parkside was woefully unprepared for the COVID-19 outbreak despite all the corporate-level planning Extendicare did and all the support offered and provided to it by the [Saskatchewan Health] Authority," the report said.

"We found that Parkside was lax in enforcing the public health orders and implementing effective infection prevention and control measures with its staff to ensure that COVID-19 stayed out of the facility or was at least better contained."

When announcing the decision to end its relationship with Extendicare last October, Minister for Seniors Everett Hindley said, "I am sorry that the measures and supports in place were not sufficient to prevent this tragedy."

At the time, now-former SHA CEO Scott Livingstone apologized "for not being able to do more to prevent such a tragic situation."

The ombudsman's report found that concerns about Parkside's crowded four-person rooms were flagged early in the pandemic, but that no major action was taken to reduce the number of occupied beds until after the outbreak took hold.

It also found that infection practices varied across the five Extendicare homes.

Extendicare operated three homes in Regina, one in Saskatoon, and one in Moose Jaw.