Aging St. Mary’s Villa building creates challenges for care: report

HUMBOLDT, MIDDLE LAKE, WATSON — The aging building and infrastructure at St. Mary’s Villa creates significant challenges and restrictions in caring for its residents, said a report released from the provincial government.

“Small and outdated rooms create challenges for residents and staff,” the report went on to say.

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The Saskatchewan Health Authority’s 2019 CEO Tour Report on long-term care aims to find out what’s working well and what can be improved at the province’s long-term care facilities.

It was released to the public on May 29 after the opposition New Democrats questioned at a media conference the day before why the annual report wasn’t made available. Scott Moe, the province’s premier, said the report wasn’t released as usual because the health system is focused on the pandemic.

The report said what was working well at St. Mary’s Villa was a small but effective resident and family council leadership, partnerships with community health care professionals, and the efforts of the St. Mary’s Villa Foundation to raise funds for the facility and its residents.

“Staff are welcoming and engaged,” it said. “Residents report they feel well cared for and feel like they are in their home.”

The New Democrats also called for the reestablishment of legislated minimum care standards and staffing ratios at the province’s long term care homes.

“We're incredibly thankful that the pandemic hasn't hit our long term care homes yet here in Saskatchewan, but that doesn't mean the conditions that exist in places like Ontario and Quebec don't exist here – and in fact they do,” said Danielle Cartier, the NDP’s seniors critic.

“We've heard story after story about those same conditions, and it also doesn't mean that if we do get an outbreak in a long term care home, that we are able and in a position to handle it.”

Around 82 per cent of COVID-19 facilities in Canada have been in long term care facilities.

The government removed legislated minimum care standards in 2011, but Moe told the media that doesn’t mean there aren’t any standards.

“We do have guidelines for care here in this province. I brought them with me. There’s 191 pages of guidelines,” Moe said. “I would just go to the very opening page about halfway down where it says and I quote, the standards set within this manual are considered minimum standards.”

The NDP said they are concerned those guidelines don’t have teeth, quoting a Provincial Auditor’s report in 2016 that called for provincial health authorities to clearly define in contracts with homes the quality of care expected, ensure data was collected to make sure the standards are being followed, and periodic inspections were being conducted to enforce the standards.

The CEO’s report also gave assessments of other long term care facilities in the district.

For Middle Lake’s Bethany Pioneer Village, the report said the call system is a continuing concern, the phone system is beyond repair with constant challenges and that recruitment of nursing staff continues to be a challenge.

In terms of positives, the residents were happy with how clean the rooms were, the number of activities available and the variety of foods.

The report for Watson’s Quill Plains Centennial Lodge said wall repairs are required in the dining area due to an old roof leak. Not mentioned in the report are the efforts by the lodge’s foundation to raise money for a new wing priced at around $8 million.

Residents said they have plenty of activities to do and they felt the staff “spoil” them.

Jim Reiter, the province’s health minister, said the Saskatchewan Party has been increasing the dollars spent on long term care and added more than 700 frontline staff since they got into office in 2007. He said there’s no silver bullet, but there have been improvements.

Ryan Meili, the NDP’s leader, said he’s concerned there may be more problems in the long term care system than the report touches on.

“I think it's striking that with a report that is so closely associated with the ministry that there are still this many damning statements says a lot about the conditions and actually steps up the need for a more independent, objective review of exactly what's going on with long term care.”

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