Saskatoon

Family concerned about Sask. program moving patients from hospitals to private care homes

Families are concerned about the lack of communication regarding a new program under which residents are being moved from hospitals to private care homes.

Health ministry investigating allegations of violent incident at Warman facility

A photo of Diamond House. It has green walls and a grey roof with many cars parked in front of it.
Thirty convalescent care beds, of which 24 are currently occupied, have been added to Diamond House in Warman, Sask., as part of the Saskatoon Capacity Pressure Action Plan. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

Larry Adam said he is concerned about a lack of communication regarding a new program under which residents are being moved from hospitals to his parents' care home in Warman, Sask.

Adam, a retired medical professional who lives in Abbotsford, B.C., said he and his sister were not told that their parents' private personal care home, Diamond House, would be opened to new residents to free up provincial hospital beds.

"We're trying to understand where these new residents are coming from," he said.

Adam said he and his sister, who is based in Saskatchewan, only became aware of the situation once an allegation of a violent incident at the home began circulating on social media.

He said he and his family were left in the dark as to "why the environment within the facility has changed in a negative way and is deemed to be unsafe."

CBC has contacted the home, family members of its residents, police, government and the provincial health authority, but has been unable to verify that any violent incident happened at Diamond House. RCMP say they have received no reports of any such incident.

WATCH | Family concerned about Sask. program moving patients from hospitals to private care homes: 

Family concerned about Sask. program moving patients from hospitals to private care homes

1 month ago
Duration 3:12
Families are concerned about the lack of communication regarding a new program under which residents are being moved from hospitals to private care homes.

Saskatchewan's Ministry of Health, which regulates private personal care homes in the province, confirmed it is investigating an "allegation" at Diamond House, but did not give any details, citing privacy considerations.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) told CBC News it has signed a five-year agreement with three private personal care homes for convalescent care spaces, also known as temporary or transitional care spaces. Diamond House is one of the homes. The SHA would not identify the others.

John Ash, vice-president of Integrated Saskatoon Health for SHA, said the agreement is part of the city's capacity pressure action plan, which is meant to relieve overcrowding in hospitals.

The idea is to move people who no longer need acute care to homes where they would still be given some degree of support.

"This is about enhancing the capacity to make sure that patients get the right care in the right care environment to meet their needs," Ash said.

"Examples of individuals that would benefit from these beds would be individuals just requiring daily assistance — support with eating, getting dressed, walking, simple wound care, those waiting for surgery, IV treatment — where they could be non-weight-bearing."

The SHA would not give more specifics about the demographics of patients being moved from hospitals into private care homes.

Ash said a total of 75 convalescent care beds have been added to expand community capacity in Saskatoon through this plan, with 68 of these beds occupied.

Thirty of those beds are contracted with Diamond House, of which 24 are currently occupied, he said.

The SHA is also adding 84 beds to long-term care homes, he said.

Adam, whose parents have lived at Diamond House for less than a year, said the influx of new residents at the facility is "bizarre."

"This is not the solution for the overcrowding of hospitals," he said.

Diamond House is run by Golden Health Care, the largest private provider of personal care homes in Saskatchewan. Adam said he raised his safety concerns with the organization.

"My family member was treated abruptly and told to, if they weren't happy, to move my parents out," he said.

CBC News tried to contact Golden Health Care, but was unable to reach anyone. Diamond House declined to give a statement.

Process for transition to care homes

Ash said hospitals do their due diligence before transitioning patients to care homes.

When there's an opportunity to transition to a convalescent care bed, a worker meets with the patient and their family to outline the process to the patient. The home is then sent a patient file without identity details.

The worker then meets with the care home and after review, the home accepts responsibility for the patient through a mutual agreement.

"We have confidence that the care home will be able to meet the needs of the patient," Ash said. "Similarly, the care home agrees that they are able to meet the needs of the patient."

Ash said people who go through this process pay for the arrangement, consistent with other transitional care beds or convalescent care beds in the province. According to the SHA's website, as of April 1, a resident could be paying between $1,349 and $3,357 per month.

Need for stricter policies

Bill VanGorder, a seniors' advocate, said there is no way governments are going to be able to build enough care homes to keep up with Canada's aging population.

"We should have started doing this when we knew that the growth in this age group was going to happen, and we knew 20 years ago," he said.

According to Statistics Canada, 25.5 per cent of the Canadian population was above 60 years of age as of July 2023.

A photo of Bill VanGorder in navy blue suit with a blue shirt and necktie, smiling to the camera.
Bill VanGorder, the chief advocacy and education officer for the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, said using care homes to relieve pressure on hospitals is not unique to Saskatchewan. (Submitted by Bill VanGorder)

VanGorder, the chief advocacy and education officer for the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, said using care homes to relieve pressure on hospitals is not unique to Saskatchewan.

In Ontario, under a law the province implemented a little over a year ago, patients can be placed in homes up to 70 kilometres away — or 150 kilometres if they are in northern Ontario — without their consent and will be charged $400 a day if they refuse the transfer.

"Some provinces are actually leasing former hotels and [providing] this level of care that's not as extreme as in a hospital, but more than as offered in a regular long-term care home," he said.

VanGorder said that while these methods are not a permanent fix, they can be a short-term solution.

He added that the government must make sure facilities offering these services are set up to protect the patients.

The problem, VanGorder said, is a lack of supervision, regulation and inspection.

He said staff should be trained to prevent and de-escalate any incidents among patients.

He also said the federal government, which has been financing much of the advancement in long-term care, should enforce policies that provide a safe environment to seniors.

"This can only be done if there are regular unannounced inspections of these facilities and we don't have the assurance in this province at the moment that that's happening as much as it should," he said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Priya Bhat is a journalist at CBC Saskatoon. She has previously worked with CBC British Columbia and written for The Tyee and The Times of India. She holds a master of journalism from the University Of British Columbia. You can reach her at priya.bhat@cbc.ca.

With files from Kendall Latimer