Nova Scotia

NDP says it wants a law to mandate staffing numbers at nursing homes

At a news conference hosted by the party Tuesday, Karen Gibbons says there's sometimes not enough staff at her 89-year-old mother's Halifax nursing home to take her to the bathroom.

Karen Gibbons says her mother's Halifax nursing home is seriously short-staffed

Louise Gibbons lives in a nursing home in the Clayton Park area of Halifax. (Submitted by Karen Gibbons)

Karen Gibbons says her heart breaks every time her 89-year-old blind mother calls her from the Halifax nursing home where she lives to ask for help to go the bathroom.

"I ask her if she rang her buzzer and she said 'Yes, but no one came,'" Gibbons said. "I struggle with it all the time."

Gibbons spoke Tuesday at a news conference hosted by the Nova Scotia NDP to showcase two bills it intends to introduce this fall aimed at improving nursing home care.

Louise Gibbons has been living at a privately run partly publicly financed facility in Clayton Park for the past five years, according to her daughter. But Karen Gibbons doesn't blame staff at the home, who she said are "exhausted" at the workload they shoulder.

Instead, she puts the blame squarely on the Nova Scotia government, accusing it of not providing a big enough budget to ensure there's enough staff to carry out the most basic of their duties.

"I would love to believe that getting to the bathroom in a timely manner is a basic right," said Gibbons.

$60M a year

The fall sitting of the Nova Scotia Legislature begins Thursday.

The NDP plans to introduce a bill aimed at making more information about nursing home care routinely available. A second bill would increase the amount of time for care each nursing home resident receives.

Overall, the party estimates, it would mean a budget boost in the neighbourhood of an extra $60 million a year.

"I don't think it's the whole solution to the problem, but I think it's a major step forward," said NDP Leader Gary Burrill.

"We need to mandate staff-to-patient ratios so that there can be a way of addressing the fact that people in nursing homes today need more care than nursing home residents did just a few years ago."

According to Gibbons, the current staff complement at her mother's nursing home is about eight residents per continuing-care assistant.

"My mother is only given one shower a week," she said. "I feel that is not adequate for residents who live in an environment where most people are incontinent.

"The staff are suffering. The residents are suffering and it appears to me that the government is not listening."