New Brunswick

N.B. government's plan for seniors is to keep them out of nursing homes

The New Brunswick government is focusing its seniors' care strategy on helping seniors live in their own homes instead of nursing homes.

Health Minister Dorothy Shephard says 'aging in place' is better

Health Minister Dorothy Shephard and Social Development Minister Bruce Fitch made the latest in a series of health announcements planned for this week. (Government of New Brunswick)

The New Brunswick government is focusing its seniors' care strategy on helping seniors live in their own homes instead of nursing homes.

Social Development Minister Bruce Fitch and Health Minister Dorothy Shephard announced new services for New Brunswick seniors on Tuesday afternoon at the Loch Lomond Villa in Saint John.

They are aimed at extending the social and medical services now offered at nursing homes to elderly people living at home.

"Seniors in nursing homes are spending longer in nursing homes than any other provinces ... I believe it's 2.8 years," Shephard said.

Shephard and Fitch said this could be done by rolling out three new programs in the next two to five years.

Shephard said the program called nursing homes without walls, already in place in the southeast and northeast, will be extended to 16 additional locations in the next two years. 

The program would allow seniors access to social events at a nursing home and allow them to spend some time there without being admitted.

The second program will use extramural services to allow seniors to have followup appointments and meetings with social workers without leaving their homes.

Shephard said the province will attempt to have this program offered by 20 nursing homes in the next two years.

The third program will include nursing-home workers in the process of discharging seniors if they've been admitted to hospital. Shephard said the goal of this is to start thinking about a discharge plan for a senior the minute they're admitted.

"It shouldn't wait for three and four and five days, trying to make sure you've got resources in community, to make sure they can get back home so that families can help take care of them, as well as the supports they might need on their own," Shephard said.

"So when a discharge team is part of that clinical planning, we can get seniors out of the hospital faster."

Health Minister Dorothy Shephard says extending nursing-home services to seniors' homes is a priority. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)

This will begin in early 2023, she said.

"Beginning now ... we will be implementing some of these changes, we'll be checking on them every six months," Shephard said. 

Shephard did not say exactly how many new hires are needed to make these programs happen, but said recruitment will continue so the province can keep up with demand.

"With personal support workers and those supports, we need to increase," she said. "We certainly look to how we can improve those careers and making them more attractive."

These programs will be funded partly by the Healthy Seniors Pilot Project, which has $75-million in funding from the federal government and $11 million from the province.

Full health plan to come

The Blaine Higgs government is unveiling its much-anticipated health plan in several news conferences this week. On Monday, Shephard announced the province will make primary care available to all New Brunswickers in early 2022 by creating an online referral system.

Tuesday afternoon's announcement was the second element of the health plan.

Shephard said last week that the plan, titled "Stabilizing Health Care: An Urgent Call to Action," will be shared in full on Wednesday.

No closures expected

Shephard previously said the new health plan will not include any hospital or emergency department closures.

In February 2020, the province tried closing nighttime emergency services in six small communities but retracted the plan after a public outcry. Some ERs have seen their hours shortened anyway because of pressures from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In developing the health plan, Shephard said the government is taking direction from an independent task force which will make recommendations to Fitch and herself.

The task force is co-chaired by Gérald Richard, the former deputy health minister, and Suzanne Johnston, the former president of Niagara Health in Ontario.

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