SASKATOON -- NDP leader Ryan Meili is calling on the Government of Saskatchewan to change the way it’s handling long-term care homes in the province in the wake of several deaths related to COVID-19.

“This government failed to act when it comes to solving the crises in our long-term care system,” he said. “It shouldn't have taken dozens of people dying, but hopefully, at the very least, they’ll listen now.”

Forty-three people died as a result of an outbreak at Parkside Extendicare in Regina, and a current outbreak at Preston Extendicare has left nine people dead, with 12 active cases amoung residents and two amoung staff.

Meili says he’d like to see the transfer of all for-profit long-term care facilities in the province to Saskatchewan Health Authority control, meaning the province would own the buildings and the facilities would be brought into the public system.

“We know that for years the for-profit model has been failing residents at every level across the country, but the pandemic has made that all too tragically clear in a much more serious way.”

NDP seniors critic Matt Love says Extendicare is the only for-profit long-term care provider in the province, with five separate facilities; Preston Extendicare, Extendicare Parkside, Extendicare Sunset in Regina, another Extendicare facility in Regina, and Extendicare Moose Jaw.

“For-profit care for seniors has no place in our province, and has no place in the way that we move forward to provide care for senior citizens,” he said.

Premier Scott Moe wouldn’t say if the province would take over operations of for-profit long-term care homes, instead saying they’ll continue to invest in long-term care in the province.

“I think the people of the province know very well that we have committed vast amounts of resources to ensure the long-term care in Saskatchewan is as safe as it can possibly be,” he said. “Over the course of the last over 10 years now we've invested in, I believe we're on our 15th new long term care facility in the province.”

“We've increased our long term care staff, with a similar amount of beds, by about 700, committed to another 300 that are long term care staff that are in the process of being hired as we speak, to ensure that we are able to continue to provide not only the care but the safe care for our family members in our long term care facilities here in the province.”

Extendicare spokesperson Laura Gallant says they won’t “hesitate to ask for additional support from the SHA if circumstances change” but the COVID-19 situation at Preston Extendicare is steadily improving, with care teams “making strong progress in protecting residents from further spread and removing the virus from the home.”

Meili is also calling for:

  • The immediate release of all information on COVID-19 outbreaks, and outcomes in long-term care
  • Immediate hiring of the 300 continuing care aides promised in the Throne Speech
  • A workforce review committee including the SHA and health care unions to set a human resources plan to address understaffing in long-term care
  • Extending Phase 2 of the Saskatchewan Temporary Wage Supplement Program to all healthcare workers in the province
  • Legislated minimum standards of care for all LTC facilities in Saskatchewan - both SHA administered and private not-for-profit operators - including a standard of no more than two residents per room.
  • An independent Seniors’ Advocate for Saskatchewan

“It's time to fix the broken long-term care system in Saskatchewan, starting with eliminating for-profit care here in the province,” said Meili.

Moe says standards of care are within Saskatchewan Health Authority policy.