Some seniors in Nova Scotia are waiting more than a year to get into a nursing home and the waits are getting longer, CBC News has learned.

Through an access to information request, CBC News obtained an internal document for the Department of Health and Wellness on the barriers in accessing long-term care.

"Adding capacity to the long-term care sector has had a number of system impacts. Since 2009, there have been 669 new long-term care beds added to the long-term care system," the report said.

"Despite the added system capacity, wait lists continue to grow."

According to the report, there were approximately 1,284 people waiting for long-term care beds in April 2007. That increased to approximately 1,740 clients in April 2010 — an increase of 35.5 per cent.

During the same period of time, bed capacity increased by about 13 per cent.

"The demand for long-term care is outstripping the supply despite adding capacity to the sector," the report concludes.

Nancy Davis and Jean Reynolds — sisters living in Three Mile Plains, N.S. — made the decision to move their older, ailing sister Shirley to a nursing home three months ago. For them, the wait is just beginning.

"We just can't understand why it is taking so long," Reynolds told CBC News on Tuesday.

"It's not that we don't love our sister. We do. But it's hard. It's stressful."

400-day wait

Wait times for long-term care vary by facility, by district and by the location of the person who is waiting. Wait times for clients in hospital are shorter than wait times for clients in the community.

While the wait for hospital clients decreased from approximately 80 days in 2009-10 to 65 days in 2010-11, wait times for clients in the community increased from 110 days in 2009-10 to approximately 150 days in 2010-11.

For clients of the Cape Breton District Health Authority, the wait for a long-term care bed averages more than 400 days, according to the report.

"I'm not pleased with what I see, but I'm not surprised either," said Bill VanGorder, the head of the Nova Scotia branch of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons.

"Seniors don't want to be in institutions. They want to stay home and if we provided the structure that could make that happen, we wouldn't have this problem on beds."

Initiatives have 'minimal system impacts'

Officials with the Department of Health and Wellness said they are working on programs that will help keep senior citizens in their homes and will take steps to improve and streamline admissions to long-term care facilities.

This year, Nova Scotia's NDP government cancelled the program creating new long-term care beds.

"We could never build beds fast enough to meet the growing senior population, therefore we need to find other ways to do this," said Donna Dill, the director of monitoring and evaluation for continuing care at the Department of Health and Wellness.

The report concludes that since 2005, there have been several attempts to review the process to access long-term care beds in an attempt to better understand deal with barriers to placing seniors at facilities.

"Many of these initiatives have resulted in recommendations to improve efficiencies in accessing long-term care beds," the report says.

"Despite efforts to reduce barriers in the placement of clients to long-term care, there have been minimal system impacts."

Long-term care in Nova Scotia