Long-term beds coming to Cape Breton a 'significant change,' says health minister
Increasing the number of beds planned for Cape Breton marks a shift in direction for government
The Nova Scotia government is adding to the number of long-term care beds in the province, starting in Cape Breton.
The province announced plans last June to replace hospitals in New Waterford and North Sydney with new community health centres and long-term care homes.
At the time, the government estimated it would double the number of long-term care beds by putting 48-bed facilities into each community.
But this week's budget contained a bit of a surprise. The government now says New Waterford and North Sydney will each get 60 beds — a total increase of 74 new beds in the system.
"That is a fairly significant change," said Health Minister Randy Delorey.
"I mean, it's more than double the number of long-term care beds in those communities, which we believe reflects what the needs are for the community based upon the information that we have at this point."
According to budget documents released this week, adding long-term care beds marks a shift in the government's thinking.
New beds needed
Until now, the Liberal government's efforts have been aimed at keeping people in their homes longer, though advocates and union officials have long called for the addition of new beds in the system.
Delorey said the decision to add new beds in Cape Breton was made solely on the advice of health-care officials on the ground.
"This is about looking at the region and how to develop health care and deliver that health care and what infrastructure is needed to do that," he said.
Since June, the government has been working on a functional plan that will be used to determine the size and scope of new health-care facilities in Cape Breton.
Along with the closure of two community hospitals, the province plans to expand the community hospital in Glace Bay and enlarge the regional hospital in Sydney.
Earlier this week, Delorey was in Membertou to announce plans to spend more than $100 million on a new building at the regional hospital to house expanded cancer care, a larger emergency department and increased space for critical care units.
Public or private?
Delorey said the functional plans aren't finished yet for New Waterford, North Sydney or Glace Bay, but he expects to announce details soon.
"Work has been ongoing," he said. "It's been going very well, and I do look forward in the not-too-distant future to going back to the communities in Cape Breton to provide those updates and the next steps in the redevelopment project."
Delorey said it's not yet known whether the new long-term care facilities will be built by the government or a private-public partnership.
It also hasn't been decided yet whether the long-term care beds will continue to be licensed to the Nova Scotia Health Authority or whether they will be taken over by a private operator.
"Those specific details would all come out when we make the announcement in the communities as the functional plan process proceeds," Delorey said.
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