New Brunswick

Nursing home plan is partisan politics, say Liberals

The Liberal Opposition claims the Alward government is playing politics with nursing homes, while the NDP is calling for a full accounting of the $110 million cut from the infrastructure plan.

NDP wants full accounting of cuts

The Liberal Opposition claims the Alward government is playing politics with nursing homes.

Social Development Minister Sue Stultz announced a revised $329 million nursing home infrastructure plan Thursday that will create 704 specialized care beds and 354 nursing home beds.

The Liberals contend two homes in Dalhousie and Miramichi that were slated to be replaced in the original plan will now only be repaired — and those homes are in Liberal ridings.

 "So, obviously where the former government had taken an independent approach to this with a reputable company such as ADI, the Tories have decided to put politics into this", said Opposition Leader Victor Boudreau.

Boudreau said the government is also downgrading building standards for new nursing homes, which may mean they need to be replaced sooner.

NDP Leader Dominic Cardy agrees.  "Just what does it mean to say you are ‘reducing architectural, mechanical and electrical performance standards’ in these buildings?  These are hardly minor modifications," he said in a statement Friday.

"Surely we have learned by now that building inferior quality buildings is a false economy." Cardy is calling on the government to provide a complete accounting of the $110 million cut from the original plan.

"Minister Stultz has an obligation to clearly indicate to the people of New Brunswick what has been sacrificed to make these cuts for the Minister of Finance," Cardy said.

"It certainly appears that the savings have been gained at the expense of the quality of life for the people who will be living and working in these buildings," he said.

"The bottom line of this scheme is that more seniors will be living in smaller buildings, built to lower quality standards."

The Social Development minister has said the money will be saved by having one standard design for new nursing homes.  In addition, the maximum occupancy will be increased from 25 to 30 residents per ward.

Plan lacks timelines

Meanwhile, people in the industry said the plan will provide some relief for the bed shortage and improve conditions for residents.

But it won't meet long-term needs.

Cecile Cassista, executive director of the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents' Rights is pleased the plan has finally been announced after an 18-month review.

She said the designs for the new homes look nice, but is saddened that homes in Miramichi and Dalhousie will only be renovated instead of replaced.

"These folks up in the north have been betrayed by this government."

The plan also lacks definite timelines, said Cassista. And she's nervous that the care of Alzheimer and dementia patients will be left to private special care homes.

"With 704 beds that they're looking at, in my opinion, it's going to become a warehousing situation."

The New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes is generally pleased the new construction projects will create an additional 354 beds.

But executive director Michael Keating said even that won't be enough to accommodate all the people waiting

"We would try to keep people healthier so that the need to go into nursing homes would be reduced."

Keating and Cassista agree the province needs to look for ways to keep people in their own homes as long as possible.

They and other stakeholders are planning a summit for next fall.