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Most COVID-19 nursing home deaths in Saskatchewan happened in private facilities

Brian Albert poses with his mother Marie in this undated handout photo. Last winter, when COVID-19 spread throughout Parkside Extendicare, a private long-term care home in Regina, Brian Albert was advised by staff to talk to a priest. HO - Brian Albert / The Canadian Press

Last winter, when COVID-19 spread throughout Parkside Extendicare, a private long-term care home in Regina, Brian Albert was advised by staff to talk to a priest.

His mother, 98-year-old Marie, had tested positive for the virus after living in a room with three others.

Read more: 90% of cut health-care services to resume this month: Saskatchewan premier

She survived, which Albert calls a miracle, but she can no longer walk or go to the bathroom by herself.

“Now unfortunately because of COVID she’s on oxygen full-time and because of COVID she’s stuck in a wheelchair,” Albert said.

As horrible as it is for her to push a button for assistance, he’s incredibly happy she’s alive, because 39 of her neighbours in the home didn’t survive the outbreak after getting infected.

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Data from the Ministry of Health shows COVID-19 deaths in Saskatchewan’s long-term care homes are more likely to occur in private care homes as opposed to ones run by the Saskatchewan Health Authority.

As of Oct. 18, 154 residents of long-term care homes in Saskatchewan have died from COVID-19 throughout the pandemic, which makes up nearly 20 per cent of all COVID-19 deaths in the province during that time frame.

Of those deaths, 62 occurred in private, non-profit homes; 45 occurred in private for-profit homes; and 47 occurred in homes run by the health authority.

Broken down by beds, one in 13 residents died in private, for-profit homes; one in 41 in private, non-profit homes; and one in 108 in public sector homes.

Albert, who is part of a class-action lawsuit against Extendicare, said he’s not surprised to hear that COVID-19 deaths occurred at a higher rate in homes where a profit is to be made.

He said while the staff provides excellent care, the same can’t be said for the administrative side. The most common complaint he’s heard is not enough personal protective equipment has been provided to workers dealing with sick residents.

Saskatchewan has five private, for-profit homes — all operated by Extendicare.

However, following the province’s deadliest COVID-19 outbreak at its Parkside home, and investigations by the province’s ombudsman and health authority, the private company is leaving Saskatchewan and transferring the management of the homes to the government.

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In a statement, a spokeswoman said Extendicare Parkside complies with all guidelines laid out by the health authority.

“Our focus remains on providing quality care to our residents and supporting our families and team members,” she said.

Read more: Saskatchewan baby awaiting MRI visits legislature as government announces service resumption

Minister of Seniors Everett Hindley said the government is working on a new inspection process for long-term care homes, which is expected to be released in the weeks ahead.

However, NDP seniors critic Matt Love says the Saskatchewan Party government needs to legislate minimum care standards.

“The government has not signalled the end of for-profit care in Saskatchewan, they simply acknowledged the end of their relationship with Extendicare,” Love said.

“I think we have all the evidence we need to know that for-profit homes have no place in Saskatchewan.

“This is a chance for our provincial government to not only take over the facilities but take charge of the long-term care sector and bring in legislative changes that improve the care residents receive.”

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