11/24/2014 04:53 EST | Updated 01/24/2015 05:59 EST

NDP continue to call for minimum standards in senior care as workers speak out

REGINA - Workers at a Saskatchewan seniors home at the centre of a debate around care standards say they haven't noticed any changes since the death of a resident.

The three care aides, brought to the legislature by the Opposition NDP, said Monday that the Santa Maria Senior Citizens Home is understaffed and residents don't receive proper care.

Last week, the New Democrats brought to light the death of 74-year-old Margaret Warholm, who lived at Santa Maria until October 2013.

Medical records show that Warholm reported losing 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.

Calls to the Santa Maria centre weren't immediately returned Monday.

The workers asked to remain anonymous for fear of losing their jobs.

All said the quality of care has declined in the past few years. They also said concerns raised with management were ignored.

One worker said residents need to be bathed more and receive more one-on-one attention.

"The concern I have is that people with bedsores, are getting up, put in chairs, left to sit all day, not being put back to bed, no one monitors that," she said.

She said on day shifts, a worker is responsible for eight residents and that number increases to 10 on evenings. On overnight shifts, two staff members are responsible for 49 residents, she said.

A second worker said seeing residents sitting in their wheelchairs for 12 hours is "torture."

"They need to do something, not just sitting in a chair all day and looking at a wall," she said.

The NDP produced a letter sent from 49 staff members to the Catholic Health Ministries and the centre's board of directors in June.

"This home used to be one of the most sought-after residences for seniors in Regina when we began working here, but we believe that has changed," the letter reads.

It also mentioned a "stressful and unhealthy work environment" and a low staff morale.

NDP Leader Cam Broten has been calling for minimum care standards in the province. He said Warholm's case isn't isolated.

"I'm incredibly sad for the residents who are at Santa Maria and in other places," he said. "The stories of bandages being urine-soaked and bad food and absence of baths are very disturbing.

"I am really frustrated and angry at the dismissive responses we have from government."

Health Minister Dustin Duncan asked that the ombudsman look into Warholm's death and to examine whether provincial guidelines were followed.

"...Staffing levels are pretty consistent among facilities," he said. "What I'm hoping from the ombudsman is that there are recommendations that would speak to beyond just the staffing complement issue."

Last week, the centre's executive director, John Kelly, said that the standard of care at Santa Maria is "as good as anywhere in the region," but he wouldn't say whether he thought the centre was understaffed.

"We can always look for an enhancement in staffing," he said. "Our staff work daily very hard, and work for the residents, to provide the best care they possibly can."