Premier doesn't rule out building new long-term care beds

Although the Liberal government has not opened a single new long-term care bed since coming to power in 2013, Premier Stephen McNeil says they're assessing if there is a need to do so.

21 per cent of hospital beds in last 5 years tied up by people waiting for long-term care

Premier Stephen McNeil says assessing whether the province needs more long-term care beds is part of the redevelopment of the entire acute-care system. (CBC)

Premier Stephen McNeil says he's open to increasing the number of long-term care beds in Nova Scotia.

There are 7,855 beds in the province, including 6,928 in nursing homes and the rest in residential care facilities.

On Friday, the NDP released information showing that in the last five years, 21 per cent of acute care beds in the province were occupied by people waiting in hospitals for a long-term care placement.

That prompted NDP Leader Gary Burrill to call on the Liberals to add more beds.

NDP Leader Gary Burrill says he supports the government's efforts to improve home-care services, but that the government has ignored people who need long-term care beds. (CBC)

"Certainly it's well past time for them to make a move," Burrill said.

"The difficulty in Nova Scotia is we haven't made a small or an adequate investment; we have made zero investment — zero beds over a five-year period. So, no wonder our hospitals are plugged up with people that are waiting for placement in places that aren't even there."

A focus on home care

Since first forming government in 2013, the Liberals have focused on boosting support for home care. The government has poured millions of dollars into efforts to keep people in their homes for longer, essentially eliminating the wait-list for services and, in turn, reducing the wait-list for a long-term care bed by about 50 per cent.

But the wait-list is still a sizable one. As of last month, 1,175 people were waiting for a bed.

McNeil said the decision to first address the needs for home care was based on what his party was hearing from the public.

"It's [clear] from every Nova Scotian that talked to us that they wanted to be at home."

'Appropriate care in the appropriate place'

Still, the premier acknowledged that for some people, staying at home simply isn't appropriate and he said assessing the need for more long-term care beds is happening as the government redevelops the entire acute-care system.

The goal is to provide "the appropriate care in the appropriate place," said McNeil. That could lead to the first long-term care beds built by this government.

Argyle-Barrington MLA Chris d'Entremont, a former Tory health minister, said many of the calls he and his colleagues field are from people either trying to find a long-term care bed for a loved one or find one closer to where they live.

Argyle-Barrington MLA Chris d'Entremont is hoping the update of the continuing care strategy calls for new long-term care beds. (CBC)

D'Entremont noted the last continuing care strategy called for more long-term care beds and the update of that strategy is overdue.

"It was supposed to come out last year," he said. "We have yet to see it, so I'm hoping there will be a consideration for new beds in the system."

About the Author

Michael Gorman

Reporter

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia who covers Province House, rural communities, and everything in between. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca