POLITICS

Understaffing 'chronic' in Saskatchewan senior care facilities: NDP

12/01/2014 05:11 EST | Updated 01/31/2015 05:59 EST
REGINA - A Saskatchewan woman says her father has been neglected at a senior care home and was able to leave the facility in freezing temperatures because he wasn't being properly monitored.

Millicent Leugner said that in one instance her father, Art Healey, left the Rosetown facility in a wheelchair when it was -11 C. She said he was outside for about 30 minutes without winter clothing before someone found him.

"(There's) neglect of proper attention to the health needs of my father, largely due to the lack of staff," she said.

She said Healey, 76, has had Alzheimer's for about 15 years. He was institutionalized in June after an extended hospital stay, where he also walked out unattended on one occasion.

"Everybody is guilty of not doing the best that they can, we have to work all together," Leugner said.

She added that she's "very concerned" about her father's care in general, not just his wandering outside.

"He's had oxygen lines kinked," she said. "The nurses said he had sores on his bum which comes from basically sitting in diapers for too long.

"I'm not saying the nurses don't care, it's just that they're swamped."

Saskatchewan's Opposition leader cited the case in Monday's question period, and continued to call for minimum care standards in the province.

New Democrat Cam Broten said chronic understaffing in seniors homes is leading to neglect of residents and that the government is minimizing concerns.

"We see a continuing pattern with this government," he said, adding that cases of neglect are being held up as isolated incidents. "That doesn't match up with what family after family have been saying."

Leugner said her father had been wearing a "wander band," a monitoring device on his wrist, when he went outside unattended.

A call to the Rose Villa long-term care facility wasn't immediately returned.

Health Minister Dustin Duncan said the facility has put up signs to remind residents and family members to check that the door is properly closed.

He has said understaffing isn't a widespread problem at facilities across the province.

"We've hired 750 more full-time equivalents in just seven years for the same number of residents," he said on Monday. "I think that this is bigger than a staff issue."

Last week, the provincial ombudsman began an investigation into cases of alleged neglect at seniors facilities after the death of a 74-year-old woman whose family said she was neglected.

Margaret Warholm lived at Santa Maria Senior Citizens Home in Regina until October 2013. Medical records show Warholm lost 30 pounds in a year and had compression fractures in her vertebrae. She also had a large bedsore on her back that her family believes could have been prevented.

The office of ombudsman Mary McFadyen has said it has received other complaints regarding long-term care in Saskatchewan, and it was already in the process of investigating those cases.

One of McFadyen's goals will be to determine if there are systemic problems affecting long-term care.