A report published by the Nova Scotia Nurses Union on Thursday is calling on the province to urgently prepare for growing demand on the long-term care sector. 

The report, called Broken Homes: Nurses speak out on the state of long-term care in Nova Scotia and chart a course for a sustainable future — surveyed front-line nurses.

The report also draws on information from Statistics Canada and the province's health department.

Around 6,900 Nova Scotians live in 90 long-term facilities across the province, the report said. Those numbers are expected to increase as the percentage of people over the age of 65 is expected to rise from around 16 per cent in 2008 to about 31 per cent by 2038.

"This conversation is not new," said NSNU president Janet Hazelton in a statement released Thursday. "Now, more than ever, our long-term care system needs government support." 

Staffing plan is immediate priority

The immediate priority is staffing, the report explains, though tackling a bed shortage is just as important. 

People in the community who need long-term care waited an average of 333 days between 2014 and 2015 — an increase from 169 days in 2007. 

Those in hospital waited an average of 198 days for long-term care this past year, versus 105 days nine years ago. 

Increasing staff numbers will create obvious cost jumps. The report suggests Nova Scotia follow Ontario's example of employing nurse practitioners as a way to save money. 

"These costs can be offset through higher quality care. The benefits of employing NPs [nurse practitioners] … are associated with financial savings to the health care system." 

The report references a 2010 Canadian study that surveyed 675 RNs, LPNs, and CCAs from 26 long-term care facilities, which says job satisfaction is higher with stronger organization from government.

Other issues — including quality of resident care, work-life balances, safety in the workplace — would all improve from a unified strategy, which would also reduce aggression shown by residents to staff, according to the report.

"This report should stimulate change that will improve the quality of patient care," Hazelton said in the statement. 

Recommendations

Here are the top five of 15 recommendations listed in the report. 

  • Implement staffing standards to guarantee well-being of residents and nurses alike because, the report says, long-term patients should receive an average of four total hours between CCAs, RNs and LPNs
  • Nova Scotia's health department should fund nurse practitioners to practice in long-term care facilities
  • Health department should test for compliance with minimal RN staffing requirements against what's outlined in the Homes for Special Care Act. Penalties for non-compliance should also be established
  • Health department should immediately review the Residential Care facility program that many Nova Scotia facilities use and measure its impact on long-term care nurses
  • A recruitment and retention plan should be developed by the health department to stabilize the future of care workers in Nova Scotia

Read the rest of the recommendations and the full report here.

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