Long-term care? Take me out behind the barn instead.

Hello Flatlanders,

I love hearing from readers, either on social media or by email, about issues you’d like to learn more about. Most suggestions are related to the environment or social systemic issues, which I’m more than happy to research…

Dance halls on the Prairies

… but I’ve also noticed another group of readers who are really interested in one of the first pictures I posted on The Flatlander Facebook page of me talking to Saskatchewan actor Leon Willey in front of Danceland at Manitou Beach (See below). So I suspect there might be an interest in Prairie history stories, in which case hit reply to this email and let me know what you’re curious about and I’ll add that to my list of future stories to write.

Over the holiday season, I’ll do an issue on dance hall culture on the Prairies. As part of this upcoming issue, I’d love to hear from readers who have memories of Danceland and, for those of you in Manitoba, I’d love to hear your stories from Crabby Steve’s, the Normandy Dance Hall or the Gimli Dance Pavilion. Just hit reply on this email to share your stories, pictures, if have any, or questions you may have about those buildings by Dec. 23.

Local, independent, in-depth.

Our Prairie stories.

Leon Willey and Kelly-Anne Riess. PHOTO BY TOM BARTLETT

On independent journalism

A recent reader email got me thinking about independent journalism in Canada.

In the simplest sense, independent media refers to any media that is free of influence by government or corporate interests.

Over the next several weeks, I will be working on a mission statement, vision statement and list of values for The Flatlander. When I get a draft done, I’ll post it online and invite reader feedback.

I would also like to eventually create an editorial board made of members from the public to make sure The Flatlander is staying true to its mission and values.

So how bad are long-term care homes in Manitoba and Saskatchewan?

This week’s topic was suggested by a reader named Tim, who is a Saskatchewanian living in Ottawa. He would like to know what the situation is in long-term care homes on the Prairies.

In his opinion, seniors living in long-term care homes are “the most neglected group of people in our country.”  And I think there are many people who would agree with him after what was brought to light during the pandemic.

As you might recall back in May 2020, the military released a report that revealed horrifying details about the care residents were receiving in several Ontario homes. (The Canadian Military Family Magazine published the full report).

While reading public comments on long-term care homes on the Prairies, I came across this: “My dad, a retired Saskatchewan hospital administrator, looked me dead in the eye and said, “If you find yourself looking for a nursing home in Saskatchewan for me, just take me out behind the barn and put me out of my misery.” Hence, the subject line of this email.

Think bedsores, black mould and cockroaches

Looking through various reports to prepare for this issue, I learned about some of the worst incidents in long-term care in Saskatchewan and Manitoba that occurred pre-pandemic, which included physical abuseblack mould,  cockroaches, painful bedsores and starvation. So maybe it would be better to be taken out back behind the barn?

Staffing-shortages in Manitoba and Saskatchewan

Pre-pandemic, staffing shortages at long-term care homes were a problem in both Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

In Saskatchewan, some long-term care homes opt not to fill sudden vacancies if an employee calls in sick. This is a practice that the union president for long-term health care workers says is common even now.

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Even when fully-staffed, one care home worker in Saskatchewan reported that she oversees 22 patients by herself in a shift. Overnight, in another care home, there are only two workers taking care of 54 residents.

In Manitoba, a 2018 report by the provincial nurses union stated that 56 per cent of nurses didn’t believe baseline staffing requirements were adequate; and 58 per cent of nurses said they don’t have enough time to properly care for residents because of the staffing shortage.

The report goes on to state that staffing shortages led to more resident falls, failure to re-position bed-ridden residents within an appropriate time frame, delayed or missed monitoring of vital signs, as well as late or skipped resident meals.

Staffing shortages in Manitoba were also pointed out more than 10 years earlier in a 2006 union report.

The pandemic only made these staffing shortages worse.

Optimal care requires four hours a day of care per resident

As for staffing ratios, when care aide time is less than two hours per resident a day,  32 per cent of seniors develop bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers.

Residents also receive better nutrition and are more hydrated if care aides only have to help feed two or three people at mealtime. If they are looking after more than that, residents are more likely to choke and lose weight due to insufficient calorie intake.

The union recommends, for optimal care, that residents should receive four or five hours of individual attention from staff.

The Manitoba government has refused to commit to increasing the time per resident to four hours. Currently, it is 3.6 hours.

I couldn’t find what the recommended staff to resident ratio is in Saskatchewan, if there even is one. I downloaded the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health guidelines for long-term care, which was updated in July, 2021, and the argument could be made that it is lacking specifics. Under the staffing section there is no recommendation for an employee to resident ratio.

For further reading about the historic long-term care problems in Saskatchewan, check out this three-part Leader-Post series:

Part 1: Sask. LTC homes raised warning signals long before outbreaks
Part 2: COVID-19 pushes long-term care issues into the spotlight
Part 3: Pandemic is Sask.’s best chance for change in long-term care

Senior couple in senior home
Getty Images

Are long-term care homes getting better?

It’s too early to tell, but today Saskatchewan announced a new long-term care inspection program, and two beds per room, as opposed to four, has become the norm in the province; and the government is taking over five private care homes owned by Extendicare.

Meanwhile, there are concerns over bed shortages in Manitoba after Parkview Place in Winnipeg closed. Manitoba families who lost people in long-term care homes would like to see the province have an independent seniors advocate be put in place by the province. Currently, there are no plans by government to do so. And earlier this month, The Winnipeg Free Press reported that Manitoba Health reduced monitoring the quality of training received by personal-care home staff.

Photo of the week

Jesse Briggs of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers holding the Grey Cup.
Jesse Briggs of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers celebrates his team’s victory with the Grey Cup following the 108th Grey Cup CFL Championship Game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Dec. 12 in Hamilton. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

Share your photo

If you have an interesting photo that represents your part of the Prairies and want it to be featured as a Photo of The Week, please send it along. It could be of your favourite cross-country skiing trail or any place you like visiting. Bonus points if it includes an animal, like your dog, or a deer. What you’ll get in return is bragging rights, a chance to show readers your part of the world ,and a link to your Instagram account if you have one.

I’d also like to hear about some of your favourite places to visit on the Prairies so I can feature them in the future, as some readers have said they are looking for new places to visit in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

To send your photo or tell me about your favourite place, just hit reply to this email.

Five stories from Saskatchewan you may have missed

  1. Cote First Nation welcomes back bison herd after 150 year absence
    A starter herd of 24 bison was gifted to the Cote First Nation and released on Monday, with help from Loko Koa, a group seeking to restore Indigenous culture and identity. Meanwhile, the Saskatchewan government will spend $60,000 to boost the Wanuskewin UNESCO heritage bid.
  2. Saskatchewan announces five-year collaborative plan for public libraries
    The plan was developed with input from the province’s 11 public library systems as well as feedback from 5,800 Saskatchewan residents.
  3. Conservatives call on feds to repeal CP Rail tax exemption in Saskatchewan Act
    On Monday, Andrew Scheer, Member of Parliament for Regina-Qu’Appelle, announced in the House of Commons that, on behalf of the Saskatchewan Conservative Regional Caucus, the party will be repealing the Saskatchewan Act in hopes of requiring Canadian Pacific to pay provincial taxes.
  4. Saskatchewan dealing with shortage of registered psychiatric nurses; What makes the situation worse is that the retirement rate of psychiatric nurses exceeds the number of students graduating and entering the profession.
  5. Demand exceeds capacity, Regina interim emergency shelter waitlist grows
    The shelter on Hamilton Street, which was set up to relocate Camp Hope residents, is full on a consistent basis.

Five stories from Manitoba you may have missed

  1. Rising food costs a ‘triple whammy’ for Harvest Manitoba
    The food bank is expecting to see an increase in clientele and a decrease in donations, all while having to manage rising costs.
  2. Manitoba asks feds to send ICU nurses amid worsening COVID-19 health care crisis
    There are over 100 patients in ICU.
  3. Selkirk selected as new home for solar glass facility
    The city will have the first and only solar glass manufacturing facility in North America.
  4. Pilot project launched for Indigenous students in Manitoba schools; Indigenous students will have the chance to spend more time with Elders and knowledge keepers.
  5. Secret services
    Clandestine churches, created to evade COVID public health orders, have been popping up in farm sheds and machine shops across southern Manitoba.

Supporting The Flatlander

As you might recall from last week’s newsletter, The Flatlander exceeded its goal of raising $500 to hire a freelancer to do its first investigation. The contract will go out to him this week and I will introduce you to him in the next email.

Even so, some of you have asked if you can still support The Flatlander. Absolutely. The donation page is still live if you feel so inclined. At this point, any extra money will go to hire a second writer to do a second article.

Other ways to support The Flatlander include forwarding this email on to someone else, if you found it interesting.

Even by opening this email each week, you’re supporting The Flatlander as having a strong average open rate helps me prove to funders and other possible partners that this journalism initiative is sustainable.

As always, thanks for reading.

Cheers and kind regards,

Kelly-Anne Riess

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