The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) announced on Thursday it would be working with Extendicare to transfer the responsibility for long-term care services at five Saskatchewan Extendicare homes to the SHA.
A press release said there are no immediate changes for residents, families, and staff as a result of this decision.
“Together, the SHA and Extendicare will prioritize establishing a process to transfer operations that maintains consistency of care and service for residents and families, and works with our health system and union partners involved to ensure stability for all staff.”
SHA chief executive officer Scott Livingstone said the health authority has worked closely with Extendicare throughout the process and the course of their recent co-management arrangement.
“Moving in this direction is a result of a number of complex factors, including the lessons we have learned during the pandemic and future demand for long-term care services,” Livingstone added.
The provincial government directed SHA to oversee Extendicare’s operations on Aug. 5 after an ombudsman report into the COVID-19 outbreak at Parkside Extendicare in Regina was released.
A total of 42 residents died during the outbreak, 39 from COVID-19 and three from other causes.
“I apologize for not being able to do more to prevent such a tragic situation,” Livingstone said during a press conference Thursday.
Livingstone told reporters this decision was not a reflection of the care provided by staff at these facilities.
“There is no single factor to cite this decision in this instance, there were multiple review processes at play, including the ombudsman’s report and multiple layers of analysis,” Livingstone said.
“And while our assessments did show more issues at one of the Extendicare homes than others, our overall decision was informed by many other factors.”
Livingstone explained the co-management arrangement has been extended indefinitely so SHA and Extendicare can come up with a plan and timeline to complete the transition.
Minister for Seniors Everett Hindley said the government supports the plan.
Hindley added the SHA also put together a report for the government concerning Extendicare homes, and cited it as well as the ombudsman report as “two of the many factors considered in our analysis.
“There were some variations between the homes with regard to pandemic planning and readiness. There were some gaps that were identified, but surely and of course, the tragedy that occurred at Parkside was one of the major factors in the decision,” Hindley said.
Families of Extendicare residents were notified that the SHA will be taking responsibility of Extendicare’s long term care services prior to Thursday morning’s press conference.
Hindley said nothing changes for staff and residents at this point, and the transition will take place “over a period of months”.
He clarified that Extendicare staff remain employees of that corporation. He said the SHA is following the collective agreement process with employee unions “very closely” and will keep everyone informed.
There are three Extendicare homes in Regina, one in Saskatoon and one in Moose Jaw. A total of 550 long-term care spaces are provided in Extendicare homes.
Sask. NDP calls announcement ‘too little, too late’
While the official opposition welcomed the news, they shared frustration that the SHA only took action now.
“Today’s announcement is one that’s long overdue. Our party has been highlighting the issues with this private care provider in Saskatchewan for nearly a decade. The issues at Extendicare aren’t new, and it shouldn’t have taken so long for this government to act,” said MLA Matt Love, Critic for Seniors.
Hindley said the government is looking at a new inspection process for facilities in Saskatchewan and they expect to have more information later this fall.
Livingstone added as part of SHA’s accreditation standard, the organization is always hoping to improve the quality, safety, and care standards for residents across the province.
The NDP is calling on the government to roll over Extendicare staff into the SHA, implement all “outstanding recommendations” from independent officers, and agree to implement all of the ombudsman’s recommendations from her upcoming report within a year.
—with files from The Canadian Press