UPDATED: Does Saskatchewan need a seniors advocate?

WATCH ABOVE: There’s already a provincial ombudsman to field complaints about government services, with additional bodies for children and other targeted issues. Why not seniors?

REGINA – A lawyer specializing in seniors issues says Saskatchewan lags 10 to 15 years behind other provinces on issues in seniors care.

Heather Campbell, who previously worked with B.C. Centre for Elder Advocacy & Support is part of the growing support to establish a seniors advocate position in the province.

“Here in Saskatchewan, we’re talking about (having) the appropriate number of bathtubs installed,” Campbell told Global News. “That’s really rudimentary, basic stuff that we’re talking about here, versus other provinces talking about (things such as) anti-psychotic medications.”

“That is something a seniors advocate can look at day-in and day-out, as opposed to politicians who have competing priorities and interests on their agenda.”

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Saskatchewan has an ombudsman, a position designed to field complaints about government services, but the office has a wide-ranging mandate.

“Unfortunately, it often takes a tragedy to bring seniors issues into the public conversation.”

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British Columbia was the first province to have a seniors advocate following an ombudsman’s recommendation.

Long-term care issues have been in the spotlight recently after a family came forward with a story of alleged neglect in a Regina care home and three workers from the same home went public with concerns about conditions in the facility.

“Unfortunately, it often takes a tragedy to bring seniors issues into the public conversation,” Campbell said.

Over the next two decades, the number of Saskatchewan residents 75 years of age or older is expected to surpass 100,000, compared to just under 76,000 in 2014, according to Sask Trends Monitor.

SOUND OFF: With the recent discussion about neglect in some seniors care homes, is it time for Saskatchewan to have a seniors advocate?

Premier Brad Wall said Tuesday that extra funding was already being provided to the Saskatchewan ombudsman’s office specifically for health care cases, so a seniors advocate position isn’t needed.

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“One million dollars gets you more licensed practical nurses, it gets you more nurse aides potentially, helps deal with some front line issues,” Wall said. “Everything must be weighed in respect to that.”

Isobel Mackenzie, British Columbia’s seniors advocate, says her position allows for surveying residents in order to focus on improving conditions in long term care facilities.

“Is food bad everywhere, or is it only bad in (certain) facilities? Do people feel the bathing they’re getting is adequate?” said Mackenzie. “I think it starts with the ability to look at changes that need to be made.”

Mackenzie believes Saskatchewan needs to implement minimum standards in seniors care.

There are already groups like the Saskatchewan Seniors Mechanism that work to bring seniors issues to the public.

Executive director Holly Schick says their relationship with the ombudsman’s office is a good one, but ultimately, the group believes a dedicated position looking out for Saskatchewan seniors would be a step in the right direction.