Homecare in Saskatchewan, now and in the future – Regina Leader

REGINA — To prepare for an increase of Saskatchewan seniors in the future, the Ministry of Health is considering using telehomecare — technology that allows health professionals to remotely monitor a patient’s condition at home.

“Homecare is meant to try and keep people at home for as long as possible and to maintain that quality of life and independence into the future,� said Roger Carriere, executive director of the ministry’s Community Care branch. “I think that vision will remain and we are exploring innovative ways in which homecare can be delivered.�

One innovation under the microscope is telehomecare — a remote patient-monitoring system that is used in other provinces. The technology was piloted in the Kelsey Trail Health Region in 2010 and health officials are now reviewing the results.

Using SaskTel’s LifeStat Remote Monitoring and Health Management Service in conjunction with a land line or compatible cellphone, the Bluetooth wireless technology allows health-care professionals to monitor a patient’s blood pressure or blood glucose levels. The service can be programmed to generate alerts about abnormal readings to HealthLine or authorized health-care providers.

“I think the clients were satisfied and felt that they experienced an improvement in the quality of care they received,� Carriere said. “They felt more supported by the health system and they had reduced stress related to their health conditions because the caregiver was monitoring them and there was followup if required.�

Just as the number of Saskatchewan residents, 65 years and older, is expected to increase by 24 per cent over the next decade, the number of homecare providers — registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and homecare aides — is expected to drop.

According to Saskatchewan’s Health Human Resources Plan, the province had 953 full-time equivalent homecare positions between April 2009 and March 2010. In the next 10 years, the increased demand is expected to rise by 231 homecare workers and 365 are projected to leave the system through retirements. Therefore, 595 full-time equivalent positions must be recruited over the next decade to assist those with acute-care, palliative care or supportive care needs — such as an elderly individual who has difficulty bathing.

“Our sense is that among the nursing staff, if they maintain their current retirement rate, the new nursing grads will be able to fill the need,� Carriere said. “If that retirement rate goes beyond the current retirement rates, there could be some challenges.�

He added homecare has a number of part-time and casual staff, some of whom might want to work more hours, which will help meet future needs.

“Right now, homecare is provided on assessed need and assessed risks, basically for illness, injury or institutionalization — so the higher the need and the higher the risk, then the (higher) priority for an individual to receive service,� Carriere said. “Some people feel the bar is too high and that certain people can’t access homecare to the degree that they would like.�

To ensure patients have the necessary supports at home after surgery, he noted the province invested $1.4 million in homecare last year.

Homecare aides must be trained in a course recognized by the province, such as the one offered at SIAST.

“Typically, individuals are recruited from there and, as well, regions do have the option of training their own staff through their own resources, so some do it that way,� Carriere said.

pcowan@leaderpost.com

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