Province to add 236 long-term care beds, replace hundreds more

·4 min read

Nova Scotia is adding hundreds of new long-term care beds and spending millions more on renovating or replacing seven long-term care homes.

The plan will add 236 long-term care beds in the central health zone and replace hundreds of others across the province, Premier Stephen McNeil announced Friday.

"Our loved ones in long-term care deserve high-quality care in safe and comfortable environments and it is my hope that these changes will better serve the residents, their families and staff," McNeil said.

Seven homes will receive immediate work based on their condition and the best practices for infection prevention and control, the province said. They include:

  • Northwood in Halifax.

  • The Birches Nursing Home in Musquodoboit Harbour.

  • Shoreham Village in Chester.

  • Mountain Lea Lodge in Bridgetown.

  • Grand View Manor in Berwick.

  • R.C. MacGillivray Guest Home in Sydney.

  • Foyer Pere Fiset in Chéticamp.

Northwood will receive 44 new beds. The locations for the other 192 beds have not been determined.

Last year, 100 beds were removed at Northwood to convert shared rooms to single rooms after COVID-19 swept through the facility, killing 53 residents in the spring. Those 100 beds will be moved to a different location.

The spending will also increase the annual budget for capital repairs and equipment upgrades for facilities to $10.5 million per year, up from $2.5 million.

The province says the first project will be completed by 2024 or 2025.

Robert Short/CBC
Robert Short/CBC

Janet Simm, Northwood's CEO. said she was thrilled with Friday's announcement. She said it would allow Northwood to expand with a new building in a new community.

"It has certainly been a fantastic morale boost for the team here," she said. "We've had a very, very challenging year, and having this morale boost and this vote of confidence from government has spoke volumes for us today."

Simm couldn't say where the new facility would be built, but said she hopes that will be decided soon and allow the project to move forward quickly. The government and Northwood will both contribute to the costs of the construction, Simm said.

At Berwick's Grand View Manor, which has 142 residents, plans were already underway to construct a new building next to the current facility.

Pauline Raven, the chair of the board for the home, said she hopes the funding announced Friday will pay for engineering schematics needed to proceed with the project.

"Oh my goodness, we're very excited," Raven said. "The vast majority of our residents are sharing a bathroom with three other people. So the thought that within not too distant of a future they're all going to have a room and a bathroom of their very own is a very nice end to this campaign."

Menna MacIsaac, Grand View's CEO, said rooms at the home that are shared by two people are smaller than what the current standards dictate for single rooms.

"Often there isn't enough room for a family member to have a chair and visit," MacIsaac said. "More significantly is that a lot of the people who are in our residence are more acutely ill, and as they become palliative, families are expected to be in the same room with their loved one in a shared accommodation. And so privacy and dignity is as much an issue as infection control."

Communications Nova Scotia
Communications Nova Scotia

Asked during a news conference Friday why the government is spending money to add beds and upgrade facilities now, when critics have called for action for years, McNeil said the province had to assess the needs of homes before deciding where to allocate funds.

"It's not as simple as just deciding today you're going to build X number of beds. You have to make sure that you're putting those beds in the right place for the right kind of care," he said, noting the province also must consider the funding needs of home care.

"You have to holistically look at our system when it comes to delivering care. And that's what we did."

'Piece of a big puzzle'

Michele Lowe, the managing director of the Nursing Homes of Nova Scotia Association, said these new beds will have "significant impact" in the central zone, where wait times are the longest.There were about 1,500 people waiting for placements in long-term care facilities in Nova Scotia as of November, about 600 in the Halifax region.

"From our perspective, there's two things that we see in this announcement," Lowe said.

"One is the acknowledgement that there is a real need for investment in long-term care in Nova Scotia. And, secondly, it acknowledges that seniors, those we care for in these nursing homes, are a priority and they deserve these private rooms for their own dignity and privacy."

Lowe said she is pleased with today's announcement but more must be done for the long-term sector in terms of staffing.

"We can build these facilities, but we need the staff to be able to work in them," she said. "... This [investment] is just a piece of a big puzzle that we are working on in long-term care in Nova Scotia."

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