03/06/2014 01:48 EST | Updated 05/06/2014 05:59 EDT

NDP tables bill of rights for seniors in long-term care in Saskatchewan

REGINA - The Opposition NDP introduced a private member's bill in the Saskatchewan legislature Thursday that calls for minimum care standards for seniors homes.

NDP health critic Danielle Chartier said every resident in a care home deserves regular meals, regular baths and a minimum amount of one-on-one care.

She said the system in the province now is not working.

"The minister's long list of things that people need are not being met. Bare minimum care is not being met. We also across this province have a very uneven level of care. Why should someone in the Heartland Health Region have less care than someone in the Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region," Chartier said.

"If you lay out a bare minimum, that means everybody across the province will at least get that kind of care."

Health Minister Dustin Duncan said he will study the bill to see if it would provide a benefit over and above what is already being done. But he added that special care homes already have guidelines.

He said there is more focus on the quality of care, rather than time of care for each resident.

"We do have clearly defined rights and responsibilities for the residents. And we also do have rights and responsibilities for the special care homes themselves of what we expect of them as well," said Duncan.

"Those rights and responsibilities are provided to the residents when they move in."

Chartier wasn't buying it.

Legislation is far more powerful than guidelines or regulations, she said.

"The reality is we've heard stories about what care is like here under those guidelines," she said. "Clearly, the guidelines aren't strong enough or they're not being followed."

It's not the first time the NDP has tried to get a private member's bill passed on the issue.

Former New Democrat Judy Junor introduced a seniors bill of rights in 2009.

The latest attempt comes after the Law Reform Commission of Saskatchewan released a report last May that said steps should be taken to ensure civil rights are recognized in long-term care.

The eight recommendations include a bill of rights for all long-term care homes and legislation to set out a minimum standard for the residents' bill of rights, with each long-term care home drafting its own document.

Researchers for the commission's consultation paper, which was released in August 2010, spoke with friends and family members of residents in long-term care facilities.

That paper said a common complaint was that residents weren't given enough time or help to eat. It said three families believe their loved one died as a result of the lack of help to eat and drink.

Concerns were also raised about insufficient bathing — once per week for incontinent residents.