Extendicare Parkside staff were reportedly being “harassed” about needing to stay home if they had COVID-19 symptoms, according to an internal Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) report.
The infection prevention and control audit was done after an outbreak was declared at the Regina long-term care (LTC) facility. The Saskatchewan NDP obtained the document dated Dec. 2, 2020, through a freedom of information request and released it on Tuesday.
The deadly Parkside COVID-19 outbreak was declared a week and a half before that on Nov 20, 2020.
In a email statement to Global News, Extendicare spokesperson Laura Gallant said the facility “takes the inspection process very seriously and co-operates fully with each stage.
“During the first wave last spring, prior to the implementation of rapid testing on-site, Extendicare offered all staff paid time-off to get tested. This time was newly created and not removed from regularly allotted sick days,” she said.
According to the audit, some staff indicated limited access to masks as well. The audit also notes “inconsistent application of PPE” and poor hand hygiene as issues.
“It’s very concerning… certainly the track record of warning signs at Extendicare were there for years and years and years before the outbreak began at Parkside. And then, of course, to see this news from Dec. 2 just as things were really starting to head downhill,” NDP seniors critic Matt Love said.
“I can’t comment on hearing directly from workers on feeling harassed but I think that this report clearly outlines that was taking place at Parkside as workers who were experiencing (COVID-19) symptoms were being harassed and feeling forced to show up at work, obviously with the most vulnerable population in the province in long-term care. This is a huge concern.
“I think that the warning signs were there and these warning signs should have made the situation of Extendicare, on the very front of mind for the minister for seniors to be paying very careful attention to what was happening there so that he would have an acting much sooner than what did take place.”
In the email statement, Gallant noted Extendicare works “to take swift action to rectify issues raised in inspection reports” and to update policies and procedures “to reflect the advice of the SHA” and best practices.
“We continue to follow all SHA guidelines for regular testing of all staff, and infection prevention and control best practices, and will remain vigilant with every effort to protect our residents and team members until the pandemic subsides,” Gallant wrote.
Extendicare facilities are private but the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) stepped in to co-manage Parkside on Dec. 8 and maintained its involvement until mid-February.
“I didn’t see that inspection report. It didn’t come across my desk,” Saskatchewan Seniors’ Minister Everett Hindley said on Tuesday.
“At that point in time in December, we were being briefed by the SHA and by ministry officials on the developing situation with respect to the COVID-19 outbreak … And then it was shortly thereafter that the SHA entered into a co-management agreement with Extendicare to provide additional supports.”
The provincial government said it takes the situation seriously pointing out the ombudsman was asked to look into it and provide advice to prevent something similar from happening again.
“We take this entire situation very seriously. It’s why we’ve asked the ombudsman to do a very thorough investigation into everything that happened and to give us some advice … and recommendations as to what could have been done to prevent this from happening and to prevent it from happening again in the future,” Hindley said.
“At the end of the day, what we have to remember is we need to make sure that we’re providing the best level of care for the residents, regardless of where they are. Whether it’s a SHA-run facility or a private for-profit facility or an affiliate or a non-profit facility. At the end of the day, that’s what matters.
“And what matters is that we’re providing the best possible care for the senior citizens of our province. And I look forward to the recommendations from the ombudsman that will help inform future direction for this government.”
Love said the solution would be to end for-profit health care in the province.
“We’ve got to end for-profit care in the province. All of the evidence is there that this government needs to see that this model of care is putting profits ahead of patient care.
“We’ve seen in for-profit care, one senior died for every 14 beds that Extendicare operates and that is tragic but it was preventable. When we look at the beds operated by the SHA, that was one in 193.
“I’d say that a very first and significant step would be to ending the profit model of care when it comes to long-term care in Saskatchewan.”