Sask. NDP calls for government action to protect long-term care residents from COVID-19

·3 min read

The Sask. NDP is calling on the provincial government to take immediate steps to protect people in long-term care facilities from COVID-19.

Sask. NDP Leader Ryan Meili and critic for seniors Matt Love called on the government Friday to take action that would prevent tragic outcomes like those seen in Manitoba or Ontario from happening in Saskatchewan.

Among its calls, the NDP asked for an independent review of the state of long-term care in Saskatchewan that would identify where understaffing and inadequate care are a chronic problem and where those issues pose risks.

"We used to see a lot of people who used to work in multiple facilities being told 'you can only work in one,' and 'you're getting fewer hours,'" Meili said.

"We have people who are actually available to do the work, let's increase the hours in the facilities they're in, so we can increase that ratio [of staff to patients] and give the appropriate level of support."

He said if the virus gets as bad as the government's most recent models presented on Thursday suggest, there won't be enough staff to deal with the problem and suggested people could be refused care because there's no space for them.

Love said he has heard that frontline workers in long-term care facilities felt overwhelmed by jobs that have become more time-intensive and difficult through the pandemic, as they adhere to new guidelines to keep residents safe.

He said the end result of current staffing levels is inadequate care for residents in long-term care facilities.

Love said he heard during his election campaign from seniors about how hard they were working and how many sacrifices they had made to keep themselves safe.

Love noted that cases are rising in long-term care and seniors housing facilities in the province, and said in several jurisdictions, including Manitoba, similar settings are the site of severe outbreaks.

"As the new critic for seniors, I have been talking to families and care providers in the past few weeks. It's clear people do not know what is being done, and what is being planned, to keep family members safe," Love said in a news release.

"We know staff and medical professionals are doing everything they can, but the fact is people are scared. The government needs to make a plan and communicate that plan clearly to everyone in Saskatchewan."

The NDP also called for:

  • Funding from the government's COVID-19 contingency increase staff in long-term care, as well as in home care to help keep more seniors safely at home.

  • Regular and clear communication on pandemic outbreaks and steps taken to mitigate those outbreaks, in long-term care settings.

  • An emergency protocol be put in place to guarantee minimum standards of care, with the appropriate resident to caregiver ratios, minimum hours of daily care for each resident in Long Term Care and reduction of the number of residents per room.

  • An immediate and public review of staffing levels, including the measures taken to ensure that staff are not working in more than one facility.

  • Work with families and community organizations to address the mental health needs of of seniors, including increased access to technology to allow for more socialization opportunities for residents in long-term care settings and those in self-isolation at home.

The Saskatchewan government announced new COVID-19 measures on Tuesday and suspended visits to long-term care facilities and personal care homes, except for compassionate care reasons.