Former ombudsman Bernard Richard says the Alward government needs to take action on senior care now because the population is aging. ((CBC))

New Brunswick's former ombudsman says the Alward government hasn't lived up to its promise to include senior care in the office's mandate.

Bernard Richard says the Progressive Conservatives pledged during the 2010 election campaign that if elected, the ombudsman would be able to monitor nursing and special care homes and home care services.

But that still hasn't happened and Richard is growing impatient.

"I'm concerned that this might fall by the wayside, because we're talking about a very vulnerable population," he said.

Richard contends the elderly deserve to have a voice, particularly in these financially difficult times.

During his time as ombudsman, he was often frustrated that he had no authority to investigate complaints about nursing homes or special care homes, or even look at facilities to make recommendations, he said.

Richard believes the Alward government must come up with a program to deal with senior care. Although the government has added more beds, he believes expanding home care is the best option.

The time to act is now, he said, because the population is aging, with a bulge of people over the age of 65, compared to the number of people between the ages of one and 19.

Richard also notes that it's not only seniors who are affected by senior care issues. When seniors can't get into nursing and special care homes, they take up hospital beds, which means higher health care bills and fewer places for other patients, he said.