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Provincial auditor finds 859 serious events in Saskatchewan group homes

The Saskatchewan legislature at Wascana Centre in Regina on Saturday, May 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor. MST

REGINA – From physical and emotional abuse to mishandling of medicine, Saskatchewan’s auditor says about half of the adults with intellectual disabilities who are living in private group homes have experienced a serious event.

Tara Clemett said serious incidents have risen 12 per cent from the previous year and, in some cases, there’s no evidence the Ministry of Social Services followed up on investigations.

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In 2020-21, the homes reported 859 serious incidents among the 1,600 adults who were provided housing, meals and care by the private-sector homes.

“This is what really the homes are self-reporting to the ministry. That’s why it’s important the ministry periodically do inspections beyond site to see what else is happening,” Clemett said.

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The auditor’s report, which was tabled at the Saskatchewan legislature Wednesday, shows the homes receive most of the $174 million in ministry funding. About $111 million is allocated to the homes, which are either in a group setting or family-living environment.

Despite this, serious issues in the delivery of care persist.

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Clemett said the ministry does not analyze serious incidents to identify any ongoing issues, nor does it monitor whether the homes bring in recommendations following a serious event.

“Do we need to provide further support or (are) there issues we need to be looking at closely? That’s what we’re trying to articulate they do better,” Clemett said.

The auditor’s report says most serious events were related to unexpected illness and medication abuse, which includes medicine not given, wrong medicine issued or overmedicating residents.

Another 34 serious cases involved missing or wandering people. One individual was seriously injured after being immersed in hot water, says the report.

It says there were also 58 COVID-19 outbreaks at 15 homes, partially contributing to the increase of serious events reported this year.

The group homes are all privately operated, but funded by the Ministry of Social Services. The homes typically house between one and five clients, with the average age of residents being 46.

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The auditor’s report suggests the government also failed to ensure there’s quality of life for residents.

In 2019, the government shut down Valley View Centre in Moose Jaw — a government-owned facility for adults living with intellectual disabilities — that resulted in the transition of 150 residents into homes in the community. At the time, the government committed to a “Saskatchewan-made person-centred approach” for residents to shape their own dreams and aspirations while living in the community.

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For example, if they wanted to do certain activities or have specific goals in their life, it’s up to the homes to help.

However, the auditor’s report shows there has been little followup on the person-centred plans, and 70 per cent of the plans assessed by the auditor did not meet expectations.

The audit also found that the ministry did not have direct contact with 63 per cent of residents in the homes in the past two years.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2021.

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