Nova Scotia

Opposition PCs would pump millions into long-term care in Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia's PC Party has outlined its proposal for long-term care that promises to hire 2,000 nurses and continuing care assistants. They also want to build thousands of new single rooms and bring in a new supportive living model.

Party wants to hire workers, adopt 'supportive living' model

Melville Heights residents listen to a PC Party announcement on long-term care on Aug. 5, 2020. (Robert Short/CBC)

Nova Scotia's Official Opposition isn't waiting for an election call to lay out what it believes needs to be done to improve care for seniors in the province.

PC Leader Tim Houston staged a campaign-style event outside a privately-run care facility in Halifax Wednesday to make big financial promises if he were to become Nova Scotia's next premier.

Standing at a podium with a "dignity for our seniors" message attached to it, Houston pledged to create at least 2,500 to 3,500 single bedrooms over a three-year period. The larger amount would happen if Ottawa agreed to contribute funds to the project.

All told, the conversion of existing shared rooms into single rooms, the addition of more single rooms in existing facilities, as well as the creation of new beds in to-be-built homes could cost as much as $821 million, the party projects.

COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of single rooms for long-term care residents, Houston said, especially in relation to infection control and slowing the spread of illness within a facility.

Houston also pledged to hire 2,000 nurses and continuing care assistants to ensure care homes are adequately staffed and he called for the creation of a new government-funded program called "supportive living" to fill the gap between home care and nursing home care.

Tim Houston, PC leader, speaks during a press conference about long-term care at Melville Heights. (Robert Short/CBC)

"This is a new model that provides optimal care, supports the philosophy and principles of aging in place for residents, works for families, and it can all happen within a daily rate that makes sense for the government," said Houston.

"Supportive living can and will take many different forms. It could be an apartment. It could be a campus attached to a nursing home. It could be any one of the creative options that communities will come up with."

Houston said the province's seniors deserve a long-term care system "that is exceptional."

Syed Hussain, CEO of GEM Health Care, the owner of Melville Heights, the facility where the PCs staged their event, applauded the party's plan to create a new level of care.

He said his company has been advocating for a similar government-funded level of care.

"Home care is good," said Hussain. "People stay home, but on the other hand how many hours can you provide for home care?"

"People come in and work for an hour or two hours and then they leave, and then what?"

The epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak in Nova Scotia was at Northwood, a long-term care home in Halifax. Between April and July, there were 345 cases of COVID-19 affecting 246 residents and 99 employees there. Fifty-three of those residents died. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

Hussain said when seniors need to be looked after outside of home care visits, there are few options, unless you can afford to pay for it.

He thinks having government support would allow companies like his to create facilities with the lower level of care needed to keep some people out of seniors homes.

Houston said once Premier Stephen McNeil recalls the House for the fall sitting, his party will introduce a bill to amend the Homes for Special Care Act to increase mandatory daily staffing levels to at least 4.1 hours per patient.

That would require 2,000 additional professionals to be hired. The proposal promises to reinstate the continuing care assistant training grant, allow for in-facility accredited CCA training, and make the CCA registry mandatory.

Overall long-term care review taking place

On June 30, the province announced the creation of a two-person review committee into the COVID-19 outbreak at Northwood. At the same time, it announced a separate review of infection-control procedures in the long-term health system.

Between April and July at Northwood, there were 345 cases of COVID-19 affecting 246 residents and 99 employees. Many Northwood residents live in double or triple-occupancy rooms.

Fifty-three of those residents died because of the virus, which is nearly 83 per cent of all the province's deaths due to COVID-19.