The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) says it's planning inspections of "high-risk" health sites in the wake of the massive COVID-19 outbreak at Regina's Parkside Extendicare home and outbreaks at other long-term care homes, hospitals and personal care homes.
"We have learned over the course of this journey about how we respond, about infection control practices, how to respond quickly and so on," Derek Miller, who leads the SHA's emergency operations centre, said in a news conference Thursday.
Miller said the Parkside outbreak alone — which had claimed 21 residents' lives as of late Thursday — has prompted the SHA to deploy 70 workers to the Regina private home.
"That has a very dramatic effect," SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said. "Those are staff that can be used someplace else.
"Even if a fraction of these facilities experienced a similar challenge like Parkside, we would have to deploy hundreds of staff, potentially thousands."
That's why the SHA is prepared to slow down other services, including surgeries, Livingstone added.
Miller said the health authority is also in the process of identifying health sites "that we would consider high risk and following up with site inspections to review infection prevention and control measures, as well as safety considerations in those sites."
Confirmation of the inspections comes just days after the Saskatchewan NDP called for that measure. The party wanted the province to inspect every long-term care home that's been gripped by a COVID-19 and to publicly report the inspection results.
"They say that upon taking over at Parkside and signing co-management agreements, they found things they look at as being not normal," Matt Love, the Saskatchewan NDP critic on issues affecting seniors, said of the SHA.
"Certainly we want to know exactly which facilities have similar situations."
Missing Parkside reports
Love said the provincial government removed legislation on standards of care in 2011 and that while some of those standards still exist as guidelines, "the only thing holding these facilities to the guidelines are the CEO Tours."
Love was referring to the province's name for its annual inspections of long-term care homes.
He pointed out that there seems to be a three-year gap in reporting on Parkside from 2014 to 2016, as no inspection reports for that facility are posted on the page hosting the CEO Tour reports.
"We have not seen a published report. There's no evidence one exists," Love said.
CBC News request copies of 2014, 2015 and 2016 Parkside reports on Thursday. As of Friday afternoon, the SHA and the Ministry of Health had not responded to that request.
Ventilation at older homes will also be studied
Miller said the inspections of high-risk sites would come in addition to self-assessments that long-term care homes would have performed throughout the summer.
Whether those self-assessments were required of privately owned but "affiliated" homes like Parkside is unclear.
However, the SHA said last week that it has been "engaging with leadership of all of its Regina affiliated care homes since early spring regarding their pandemic readiness."
"This has involved their preparation of readiness checklists, audits of processes and supplies, and ability to comply with changes to visitor restrictions, masking and other provincial standards as they evolve," an SHA spokesperson added.
Workers and unions have expressed several concerns about how Extendicare handled the outbreak at Parkside, including claims that staff were not provided an adequate supply of PPE and that proper infection control measures were not followed.
Livingstone, speaking Thursday, said that if calls for a public inquiry were met by the province, he would like to see the process focus on private homes' adherence to SHA rules.
Miller said SHA would also review older facilities that have poor ventilation.
"Typically that's only a significant factor in cases that have an outbreak with a significant number of cases," Miller said.
Extendicare has reported that several parts of the Parkside building had "extremely poor" air flow and that it has hired a contractor to study the problem.
More than 200 residents' and staff at Parkside have contracted COVID-19 since the outbreak was declared four weeks ago. The number of active cases decreased Thursday to 69, but that figure does not include the 25 residents who were moved to Pioneer Village (a different Regina care home) and 12 people who were moved to Broadview Union Hospital east of Regina.
As of Wednesday, 23 of the 25 residents moved to Pioneer Village were infected.
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