The union representing 14,000 health care workers is commending the provincial government for their recent decision to make the new long-term care facility in Grenfell publicly owned and operated while encouraging the province to make that same commitment for the replacement facility of Regina Pioneer Village.

Over this past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a decades old crisis in long-term care facilities across Canada, and privately run care homes have been at the forefront of the crisis.

“The evidence is clear that for-profit care homes have failed our seniors at a higher rate than publicly run facilities,” said Sandra Seitz, president of CUPE Local 5430. “Our seniors deserve the level of care that can only be provided by publicly run care homes that are properly funded.”

Despite the decision that Grenfell will be getting a long-term care facility operated by the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA), the Moe government continues to pursue policies that favour for-profit privately run models. Regarding the issue of the replacement of Regina Pioneer Village, a publicly operated special care home, CUPE has reached out to the SHA repeatedly for updates. So far, the province has refused to rule out allowing private operators or corporate partners from managing the replacement facility in Regina.

“We are certainly pleased that the SHA will be managing the new facility in Grenfell,” added Seitz. “But seniors in Regina are being left out from receiving the same high quality of care.  Premier Moe needs to immediately commit to addressing the crisis in long-term care that exists across the province.”

Regina Pioneer Village was once home to almost 400 residents. After years of neglect, a number of units were closed and residents were moved to the Wascana Rehabilitation Centre in 2019 and last year to two new personal care homes – Emmanuel Villa in Emerald Park (just outside Regina) and Brightwater Senior Living in Regina, as part of a two-year field test.  The 2020-21 provincial budget set aside $2.3 million for this “partnership” with these two private, for-profit operators.

“We are asking the Moe government to recognize the clear evidence that for-profit private care homes deliver lower-quality care, which has resulted in more deaths and infections during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Seitz. “The Grenfell decision proves that they can put the needs of seniors ahead of corporate profits.”

Instead of addressing the infrastructure needs of publicly owned and operated special care homes, Seitz said the province has instead focused on promoting private personal care homes. These homes, which are largely for-profit operations, are less regulated than special care homes and require less training for care staff.

According to CUPE, the number of personal care home beds in Saskatchewan has increased from 1,629 in 1996 to 4,933 in February 2021, which is an increase of 203 percent. These private personal care homes have also grown in their size – 45% of current personal care homes have over 40 beds.