There are currently 103 long-term care beds across P.E.I. sitting empty because there is not enough staff to look after patients in those beds.
In budget estimates earlier this week, it was revealed there are empty long-term care beds in both public and private homes.
P.E.I. Liberal MLA Robert Henderson raised questions in the provincial legislature about the number of empty beds. He said he wasn't expecting it to be so high.
"It wasn't all that long ago that I had asked questions about this," he said. "And I think the answer was 36 [beds] at that time."
Henderson actually asked about the beds last October, and was told then Health P.E.I. had 42 vacant beds.
P.E.I.'s Minister Health and Wellness Ernie Hudson said the vacant beds are due to staff shortages. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said health-care workers have been in high demand, and P.E.I. health-care workers have felt the strain.
"With regards to staffing, just the impact that COVID-19 positives have had ... that in and of itself has has had a certain impact," Hudson said.
Health care backed up
Out of 103 beds, 40 are in private care homes and 63 are in public homes. People waiting to get into a long-term care facility are often waiting in hospital or still living at home.
We've got to have an efficient way to run our system so we're not having the whole system backed up. — Robert Henderson
Henderson said it's a problem because the whole health-care system is backed up.
"It probably would be six months, maybe a year to get a long-term care bed," he said. "In most cases, the only way you get one is if somebody passes away. We've got to have an efficient way to run our system so we're not having the whole system backed up."
On top of looking for more health-care workers, Henderson hopes the province can find other ways to solve the problem.
"It starts to give you a bigger picture to what's going wrong in our health-care system and why we can't deliver the services that [people] were expecting," he said.
'Being as proactive as possible'
Hudson agreed the shortages may cause problems in the health-care system, but said the province is trying to solve it.
"We're being as proactive as possible with partnering with our educational institutions and other departments," Hudson said.
Recently, the province announced it would offer free tuition for those entering P.E.I. resident care worker programs as one way to help.
Hudson said they've increased the student capacity limit in both Holland College and the University of Prince Edward resident care worker and nursing programs. Though these take months or years to complete, the need for long-term care is great and the province hopes this will increase the number of health-care workers in P.E.I.