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Coronavirus: Meili calls on the Saskatchewan government to act now to protect seniors

Ryan Meili says more has to be done in Saskatchewan to protect seniors if it wants to avoid the tragic outcomes seen in Manitoba and other jurisdictions.
Ryan Meili says more has to be done in Saskatchewan to protect seniors if it wants to avoid the tragic outcomes seen in Manitoba and other jurisdictions. Michael Bell / The Canadian Press

Saskatchewan’s Opposition leader says more needs to be done to protect seniors in long-term and personal care homes during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Saskatchewan government has placed restrictions on visits at all care homes, allowing compassionate visits only until at least Dec. 17.

Read more: Mask mandate comes into effect provincewide as Saskatchewan tries to tame COVID-19

NDP Leader Ryan Meili says that isn’t enough if the province wants to avoid the tragic outcomes seen in Manitoba and other jurisdictions.

One long-term care home in Manitoba had 89 COVID-19 cases and nine deaths as of Wednesday.

“We know long-term care settings are at high risk for COVID-19,” Meili said.

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“The modelling released yesterday by Dr. Shahab makes it clear lives are at stake. The government must act now to protect our loved ones who are the most susceptible to the virus.”

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Shahab presented scenarios on Thursday that showed new cases could rise by 4,830 to 469,000 by May 2021, but he did caution that the modelling is based on assumptions.

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Should the province’s new measures — which came into effect on Thursday — not work, between 1,600 to 4,100 people could be hospitalized by May. In a worst-case scenario, more than 4,800 people could die.

Read more: New COVID-19 modelling shows grim future in Saskatchewan if measures aren’t followed

Along with visitor restrictions at long-term care homes, the new measures include mandatory masking in all public places provincewide and gatherings limited to five people.

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As of Friday, there are outbreaks at five long-term care homes in Saskatchewan. Outbreaks have also been declared at one senior’s residence, four care homes and three assisted living facilities.

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“It is clear from what we have seen in other provinces that the time to act to protect seniors is now,” Meili said.

“We need to immediately staff up, reduce the number of residents per room and establish clear communication with families and the people of Saskatchewan.”

He is also calling on the Saskatchewan government to set up an independent review on the state of long-term care and ensure staff are not working at more than one facility.

“The government has had months to act, but we’ve seen no plan,” Meili said.

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Read more: Mental health concerns rise for seniors as Saskatchewan tightens restrictions in care homes

In a statement, a spokesperson for the government said significant measures to restrict visitors to health-care facilities, including long-term care homes, during the pandemic have been put in place.

“This has included screening of staff entering any of the facilities, a masking directive for those who work in care areas or travel through those areas and working to ensure staff are cohorted to minimize staff from working in more than one facility,” the statement read.

It went on to note a recent commitment to hire an additional 300 continuing care aides to deliver home care services and support seniors.

Read more: Senior care workers in Saskatchewan to get new temporary wage supplement

The province announced earlier in the week it is bringing in a new phase of its temporary wage supplement program.

It provides $400 monthly for two months for all full-time, part-time and casual workers, regardless of income, who are caring for seniors.

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