Saskatchewan health minister Dustin Duncan said some of the conditions reported by long-term care home residents are “heartbreaking” and “dismaying.”
He announced that $10 million would be spent this fall to address urgent issues at facilities, as identified by health region chief executive officers.
Duncan told reporters he was angry about what he had heard. In the Sask-atoon Health Region, staff couldn’t get some residents to toilets fast enough so they soiled themselves.
Others were woken up and dressed at 5:30 a.m. but not served breakfast for two hours, then readied for bed at 5:30 p.m. Some residents receive tub baths only once per week.
“Some of the issues cited, such as a lack of privacy for residents, room size and food quality, for example, speak to an overall quality of life standard that we undoubtedly need to address,” Duncan said. “However, it is details within the reports that reflect specific incidents that can only be characterized as unhygienic, unsafe and unacceptable that leave me feeling disappointed and dissatisfied.”
Complaints, concerns and bouquets for dedicated staff are contained in a 311 page report Duncan released Oct. 1.
Earlier this year, he had directed CEOs to learn what was and was not working well. The opposition NDP had raised concerns in the Legislative Assembly.
The CEOs found that residents and their families are generally happy with activities and recreation programs, volunteer involvement, dedicated staff and the involvement of resident and family councils.
Areas identified as needing improvement included the quality, variety and timing of meals, staffing levels, aging infrastructure, placing young residents with older, frail residents, and care issues, such as complexity of care, behaviour management and delays in providing care.
Duncan said spending money to address urgent issues is just the first step.
NDP leader Cam Broten said chronic understaffing is the most significant problem requiring action.
“Building a new wheelchair ramp or fixing up a bathroom are good things,” he said. “But nothing presented by the government today assures Saskatchewan families that a staff person will be there for their grandmas when they need help to the bathroom.”
About 8,700 people live in 156 long-term care facilities or 17 long-term care units at hospitals and health centres across the province.
Duncan has asked for reports in 60, 90 and 120 days after health regions receive money through the Urgent Issues Action Fund.