12/18/2014 01:35 EST | Updated 02/17/2015 05:59 EST

Government creates oversight committee after alleged senior assault

REGINA - Saskatchewan's health minister has created a committee to keep a watchful eye on the quality of care at a seniors home where an alleged assault is under investigation.

Last week, some employees at the Santa Maria Senior Citizens Home in Regina were suspended over allegations of assault and neglect.

Regina police launched a criminal investigation after being provided with video of what happened.

Minister Dustin Duncan, who met with the Santa Maria board of directors and other health administrators, said the committee and a care consultant will ensure residents are safe and receive high-quality care.

"Our government is committed to making improvements that place the needs of our long-term care residents first," he said in a written statement Thursday.

Santa Maria has referred media calls to the agency responsible for Catholic seniors homes in Saskatchewan. Scott Irwin, who heads the Catholic Health Ministry, said there is a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to resident harm.

"We need to make sure that everything possible is being done to ensure the quality of care," he said. "We're prepared to take a leading role on the committee."

Irwin said the resident who was allegedly assaulted has left Santa Maria. He added that he hasn't seen the video and can't talk about details of the case because it's an ongoing police investigation.

Opposition Leader Cam Broten has said he's disappointed by the government's response to the alleged assault. He is calling for an independent administrator at the home.

"You can't tell me for one second that the one time that there was violence on a resident that it happened to be captured on video," he said in an interview earlier this week. "There needs to be a proper investigation."

Broten said the alleged assault speaks to larger issues in long-term care.

"They've got their head in the sand when it comes to the senior care crisis," said Broten, who added that he believes neglect to be widespread.

The Santa Maria home has been at the centre of debate on provincial care standards ever since the death of a resident was brought forward by the Opposition a few weeks ago.

Medical records show Margaret Warholm, 74, 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.

Saskatchewan's ombudsman is investigating.

The Opposition has been calling for minimum-care standards as well as for the creation of a seniors advocate. Broten has repeatedly said understaffing is an issue in homes across the province.