By Joe Couture, The StarPhoenix October 2, 2013 - Saskatchewan Health Minister Dustin Duncan says details in a report on conditions in the province's long-term care facilities are "dismaying" and "heartbreaking" and left him "angry."
"When even one senior in our long-term care system can't get the appropriate help to go to the bathroom, we haven't done our jobs and I haven't done mine," Duncan told reporters in Regina on Tuesday.
Duncan released a 311-page document based on tours he earlier this year tasked senior health-region leadership to take through every long-term care facility in their respective areas. The details reported "reflect specific incidents that can only be characterized as unhygienic, unsafe and unacceptable" and the problems are "widespread enough to cause significant concern," Duncan said.
Comments in one review of a Saskatoon Health Region facility said: "My husband was taught when he was a child not to pee his pants and now they are telling him to just go in his pants."
Duncan says the province will offer a $10-million fund health regions can apply for to deal with urgent problems. There will also be $2.5 million to expand into Saskatoon and Prince Albert a pilot project to help seniors stay in their own homes longer.
All facilities will set up resident and family councils, CEOs will make annual visits, and a quality-of-care survey will be created. Duncan will also meet with stakeholders for discussion this fall.
"The seniors that need our care need us to think differently. Today's announcement is just a first step in that direction," the minister said. Levi Borisenko, vice president of Families Advocating for Compassionate Environments, a non-profit dedicated to improving care given seniors in homes, says the report's troubling details don't surprise him. His mother-inlaw died in 2006, less than 15 days after moving into a longterm care facility he feels was not properly equipped to deal with her condition.
"We've heard those stories time and time again. You can't go to the bathroom until 11 o'clock, or they haven't touched their food and it's taken away. That kind of treatment is neglect," Borisenko said Tuesday.
"The most important thing is how it's spent, who gets the money and will it actually improve the care in nursing homes," he said of the $10 million.
Opposition Leader Cam Broten said the government's response doesn't go far enough to address the needs of seniors.
"When we hear stories of seniors being forced to soil themselves because there's no one to help them go to the toilet, I mean, that is shocking," Broten said. "We need more staff to provide services and we need better standards. The idea that someone who's confined to a bed in diapers would not be receiving a weekly bath because of short-staffing is completely unacceptable.
"The minister's response with the $10 million does not show there's grave concern and a huge sense of urgency to ensure that our loved ones have the care that they need, to ensure that someone who is continent isn't forced to soil themselves simply because no one is there to help," Broten continued.
The report included a long list of issues in the Saskatoon Health Region, in particular. CEO Maura Davies also said she has heard stories of concern before, and also pointed to staffing levels as the reason for problems.
"All of our facilities have said for some time, 'We need higher levels of staffing,' and we know that ultimately will make a difference," Davies said, calling the $10 million "a start."
"It won't ultimately address the larger issue of adequate staffing or the condition of some of our facilities, but there are some things we can do with that $10 million across the province, that's for sure," she said.
Candace Skrapek, past president of Saskatoon Council on Aging, also said she wasn't shocked by the findings.
"They're certainly consistent with what we have heard (from) caregivers and older adults," Skrapek said.
About 8,700 people live in long-term care in Saskatchewan.
-with files from Jonathan Charlton, Sean Trembath and The Canadian Press