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For release on September 20, 2012 at 11:00 a.m.


Today, Ombudsman Kevin Fenwick tabled a report titled In the Name of Safety... A Review of the Saskatoon Health Region's Decisions and Actions in Relation to the former Enriched Housing Residents of St. Mary's Villa, Humboldt, Saskatchewan. The report concludes that although the Saskatoon Health Region's initial decision to close one wing of a long term care facility was reasonable, their subsequent decisions, timelines and processes were not.

In February 2012, the Saskatoon Health Region decided to move 10 residents, whose average age was 89, out of their rented homes in the enriched housing wing of St. Mary's Villa. The Health Region had decided to close a second wing, the Dust Wing, because of structural problems. As a result, they would move the Dust Wing residents into the enriched housing wing and the enriched housing residents would need to move out.

The enriched housing seniors were notified of their need to move eight days before they had to leave. "When someone tells you that you have to move in eight days, the impact is significant. When you're in your 80's or 90's, it can be even more so," says Fenwick. "Despite the Health Region's good intentions and its efforts to compensate for those very short timelines, these seniors and their families went through a very difficult experience that could have been avoided. They felt stressed and disrespected. Our review details what happened and why, and we have made recommendations to help prevent something like this from happening again."

Some of the key findings of the review include:

  • The Health Region made the decision to close the Dust Wing because a structural engineer told them that the Wing would not be safe if they didn't take action. Given the projected cost of repairs, the Region chose to close the Wing rather than repair it.
  • This decision to close the Wing was reasonable, based on the evidence and variables they were weighing.
  • The decision to move the residents from the Dust Wing into the enriched housing wing was also reasonable, but the short move deadline imposed on the enriched housing residents was not, nor was the process.
  • As early as December 2011, the Health Region had contemplated the possibility of having to move the residents out of the enriched housing wing, but did not want to cause undue alarm by sharing early information before knowing all the details. In doing so, the Region missed opportunities to provide tentative advance notice to residents and their families, and give them a chance to think about what they would do if they had to move.
  • The tight February timeframe comes from the Health Region¡¦s interpretation of a deadline provided by the structural engineer. The engineer said that the Region needed to initiate a repair plan within 30 days of his inspection, but when the Region chose, instead, to close the Wing, it did not ask the engineer for new advice based on this decision.
  • The Region used an Incident Command process which was intended to help staff manage the short time frame. Unfortunately, the Incident Command process focused staff on the task of meeting the deadline at the expense of the residents and their families.
  • Opportunities were missed to provide clear communications with residents and their families to ensure they understood what was expected of them and when.
  • The Region¡¦s lease agreements with the residents stipulated 30-days¡¦ notice for moving out. The Region did not think it could meet this requirement, so chose instead to provide financial compensation and moving assistance.
  • The amount provided to each person varied, based on individual need, but generally, the Region paid for the moves and related costs, the first month¡¦s rent in the new location, and 11-months top-up for rents that were higher than what the residents had been paying at the Villa.

In his recommendations, the Ombudsman asks the Health Region to:

  • develop policy to guide the moves of elderly people who are receiving residential services from the Region.
  • review its Incident Command process (which was used to manage the St. Mary¡¦s Villa moves).
  • clarify the applicability of The Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 in such situations.

He also asks the Ministry of Health to review its facility designations and clarify the application of this Act to others who may be renting living quarters from a Health Region.

The review was conducted in response to a request from the Minister of Health and the Board Chair of the Saskatoon Regional Health Authority. Initial interviews with the enriched housing residents and their families also raised questions that became part of the review.
In the Name of Safety... is available online at http://www.ombudsman.sk.ca/uploads/document/files/omb_smv-report_final-en.pdf.

The Ombudsman is an officer of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan who promotes and protects fairness in the design and delivery of government services. The Ombudsman has the authority to take complaints from citizens who believe that a government ministry, branch, board, commission or other agency of the government, or a publicly- funded health agency has not dealt fairly with them. Our office provides a range of services, including investigation, negotiation, mediation and facilitated communications. The Ombudsman
operates under The Ombudsman Act, 2012.

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Media contact:
Leila Dueck
Director of Communications
Ombudsman Saskatchewan
Phone: 306-787-7369
E-mail: ldueck@ombudsman.sk.ca

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