Long-term care investment receives mixed reactions

HALIFAX: Opposition parties and one of the province’s largest unions reacted to a recent provincial investment in long-term care.

On March 21, the provincial government announced an investment of more than $2.5 million to help staff in long-term care facilities prevent and manage pressure injuries.

“We are committed to improving the quality of care in homes across the province,” said Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey. “These investments are about providing staff with the tools they need to do that.”

A new agreement with the Canadian Red Cross will allow long-term care homes to access equipment like special air mattresses and pressure redistribution cushions easier and faster. The $1.68 million investment will allow long-term care homes to have a supply of equipment on site in their facilities ready to use, rather than having to wait for it to be shipped from the Canadian Red Cross.

Another $880,000 is being invested to purchase 209 new ceiling lifts to help long-term care workers move residents more safely.

Progressive Conservative MLA Chris d’Entremont welcomed the news, noting that public inspection reports were included in a bill introduced by PC healthcare critic Karla MacFarlane over six months ago.

“This was the right thing to do when the PC Caucus introduced the bill and it’s still the right thing to do now,” d’Entremont said. “I am pleased the Liberals have decided to make these much needed changes.”

NDP Leader Gary Burrill said the investment missed the mark.

“The expert panel on long-term care was clear, we need more people doing the work of caring for our seniors,” he said on March 21. “The funding announced for equipment for nursing homes today is good news, but it will not solve the major issues in long-term care.

“Long-term care workers and administrators tell us they are chronically short-staffed and do not have the resources to care for an increasingly frail population of residents. The Liberal government should restore the $5 million they cut from nursing home budgets and implement staffing ratios so that our seniors get the care they deserve.”

Nova Scotia Government Employees Union (NSGEU) president Jason MacLean called out the government for what he called “misplaced priorities and hypocrisy in funding announcements.”

“Just yesterday, this government announced $8.5 million to renovate a ferry terminal in another country,” said MacLean on March 21.

“Today, Minister Delorey dug up a meagre $2.5 million for our struggling long-term care sector. This shows just how tone-deaf our government is: they expect Nova Scotians to just be grateful for the crumbs that they are willing to throw at our health care crisis.”

According to the NSGEU, frontline health care workers need help, seniors are being warehoused in critical care beds, the government has not added a new long-term care bed since it was elected in 2013, and has consistently cut long-term care funding.

“This is a tale of two announcements that leaves my members on the front lines wondering, ‘what are this government’s real priorities?’” said MacLean. “Our care providers, our seniors, and all Nova Scotians, deserve much better.”

The government is also making more information about the long-term care sector available to Nova Scotians. Quarterly data related to the Protection for Persons in Care Act is now available on-line at: https://novascotia.ca/dhw/ppcact/. Inspectors have started using an electronic licensing and inspection program. The first inspection reports are expected to be posted on-line by the end of May 2019 and quarterly data related to pressure injuries will be available on-line starting July 2019.

Finally, a wound care policy for long-term care has been created and shared with facilities. This is in addition to the education sessions and wound-care tool kit provided to facilities last fall. A copy of the policy is available at: https://novascotia.ca/dhw/ccs/policies-standards.asp.

These actions were recommended by the pressure injury working group and are supported by the Expert Advisory Panel on Long-term Care.