Hiring more staff allows nursing homes to meet higher standards of care, says minister
Seniors minister says more than half of long-term care homes can now provide 4 hours of care each day
More than half of the nursing homes in Nova Scotia can now achieve increased daily hours of care for their residents thanks to increased staffing levels, Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Bard Adams told reporters on Thursday.
She said 30 of 91 nursing homes in the province are now providing 4.1 hours of care per day to residents and another 36 are preparing to do so.
Reaching the 4.1 mark has been a long-standing call of seniors advocates and the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union. Adams said the Yukon is the only other place in the country meeting that standard right now, which she said has benefits for residents and staff alike.
"What it means is staff are able to go on their vacations without feeling guilty," she said.
"If somebody calls in sick, [homes are] not strapped and not able to replace the staff that they need to come in."
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It also means that when a resident presses a call button there is someone to respond and meals are prepared in a more timely fashion, said Adams.
The recent provincial budget made $25.1 million available for homes to provide the higher standard of care once they were able to recruit staff. Adams said money would continue to flow to more homes as they are able to increase staffing levels, although she acknowledged recruitment continues to be a challenge for some sites in rural settings.
Nova Scotia is committed to increasing the number of continuing care assistants (CCAs) in the province, said Adams. She said 1,000 people will graduate from CCA programs in the next six months.
The government announced a 23 per cent wage increase for CCAs a year ago, a move intended to boost recruitment while recognizing that the job has long been underpaid in the province.
Gary MacLeod, chair of the organization Advocates for the Care of the Elderly, said being able to deliver 4.1 hours of care per day is a great step. But he said it's crucial that it will result in more hands-on care each day for long-term care residents.
"Front-line workers have other duties besides hands-on [care]," he said in an interview.
"The bedside hand holding, dressing, the physical activity, the social activities — until we see the quality of life improve that way we won't really know what the 4.1 hours is really going to look like."
MacLead said it is important for increased staffing levels to be maintained throughout the day so residents can have less rigid schedules for eating and sleeping.
An eye on national standards
As people live longer, it's important for long-term care homes to have the appropriate staff to provide acute care and palliative care, steps MacLeod said would help keep residents out of hospital.
MacLead said he's pleased to see the government acting on recommendations from a report written in 2018 by an expert panel and he commended Adams and her government's commitment to investing in the sector through increased services, staffing and building new beds.
But MacLeod said he's also hoping Adams and her department officials review the recommendations in a new national report on long-term care standards and incorporate them in Nova Scotia.
MacLeod said he'd like to see the federal government partner with provinces to improve long-term care services, similar to agreements to provide affordable child care across the country.
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