Nova Scotia

Province paying to keep 250 nursing home beds empty

The Nova Scotia government is paying some long-term care facilities to keep beds closed, while penalizing others that have closed beds without the province's blessing. The carrot-and-stick approach has created a situation where 276 beds are unavailable despite a growing waiting list of people wanting to get into a nursing home.

More than 1,400 people are waiting for a nursing home bed

The Northwood long-term care home in Halifax. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

The province is paying for roughly 250 beds that have been closed in long-term care facilities across the province in order to provide residents with adequate space to meet COVID-19 concerns.

Most of those empty beds are at Northwood Halifax, the province's largest care centre. It is being funded for the 100 beds that have been approved for closure by the Health Department.

Oceanview in Eastern Passage has been given permission to close 30 beds without penalty, as has Shannex for 20 beds. Both have created regional care units to temporarily house residents who have tested positive for the virus.

The province's decision to continue to fund the empty beds is, in part, compensation for facilities that have agreed to care for COVID-positive residents from other care homes.

Another 100 beds

There are another 100 beds being kept empty, with compensation, in other nursing homes.

According to information provided by Nova Scotia's Department of Health, there were a total of 276 closed beds across the province as of Feb. 2. Most of those closures were in the central zone which encompasses the Halifax region.

Nova Scotia Health Zone
Total Number of Beds
Number of Closed Beds
(as of Feb. 2, 2021)
Eastern1,602  34 

Although the province has approved those closures, it has followed through on its threat last fall to pull funding from care facilities that are keeping beds closed on their own initiative. Letters were sent to 52 homes urging them to reopen beds that had been closed as a precaution.

According to the Health Department, since Oct. 31, 2020, 24 facilities have lost a total of $344,000 in provincial funding for having closed beds the province claims should be open and available. 

The situation is better than it was last summer when more than 600 beds were closed by the homes themselves as a precaution.

Decision defended

The move created a larger-than-normal backlog of people stuck in a hospital bed because there was no care facility to take them. That situation prompted last fall's threat by the Deputy Minister of Health Dr. Kevin Orrell to pull funding.

During an appearance Wednesday before the Nova Scotia legislature's Public Accounts Committee, Vicki Elliott-Lopez, the woman responsible for long-term care, defended the decision to pull funding from facilities keeping beds closed.

"We have 194 beds available across the system and of those 85 are already attached to individuals, so it's in fact opened up the system quite substantially," she told provincial politicians.

In an interview following the meeting, Elliott-Lopez said the money saved, more than $300,000, had been reinvested in other measures designed to ease wait lists.

Those include converting beds earmarked for residents with lesser needs into nursing home beds, and the creation of a transition unit at a local Halifax hotel to temporarily house hospital patients awaiting nursing home placement.

According to the Nova Scotia government wait times web page, those currently waiting for placement into a nursing home from home are waiting between 17 and 296 days depending on where they live.

The shortest waits are for those who live in Cumberland County. The longest waits are for people who live in the Yarmouth region.