HALIFAX — Most of Nova Scotia's long-term care homes are not being directly affected by the province's vaccination mandate, an executive with the nursing homes association said Monday.
The province released figures on Friday indicating that more than 1,000 public sector workers were placed on unpaid leave after failing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 ahead of the government's Nov. 30 deadline. That figure included 179 staff who work in the long-term care sector, which has long warned of an ongoing shortage of trained workers.
Michele Lowe, executive director of the Nursing Homes of Nova Scotia Association, said in an email Monday that most of the 73 homes it represents are "very fortunate to see very little to no impact at all as a result of the (vaccine) mandate."
However, Lowe said some smaller homes have been more seriously affected.
"We have been working on a laser-thin supply of staff in long-term care for several years now, and even the departure of three to four full-time staff, particularly (registered nurses) or (licensed practical nurses) can still have an impact to service delivery, particularly in smaller rural homes," she said.
Lowe singled out Grand View Manor in Berwick, N.S., as a residence where the vaccine mandate has compounded ongoing staffing problems.
Menna MacIsaac, the CEO of Grand View Manor, said her facility has lost a total of 25 staff members for various reasons, including the vaccine mandate, since Oct. 4. She said the 142-bed facility requires about 150 workers to fill the schedule each week. Overall, it has about 290 employees including part-time and casual workers.
She said issues that have driven staff shortages, such as low pay for continuing care assistants and too few places at training institutions for licensed practical nurses, have simply been exacerbated by the pandemic and requirements such as the vaccine mandate. MacIsaac said it's all meant more strain and longer hours for the staff that remain.
"The situation is worsening and we need to go back and address some of those root problems," she said in an interview.
She said she believes the province's new Department of Seniors is making efforts to work with the long-term care sector to resolve staffing problems.
In the meantime, MacIsaac said her home has turned to an outside company to hire people. She said the Department of Health has stepped in to provide some short-term replacements, and the names of potential workers have also been provided through a Health Association of Nova Scotia recruitment initiative.
"In the last week, we've gotten 12 workers," she said.
Meanwhile, the province on Monday reported 45 new cases of COVID-19 since its last update on Friday.
Officials said 38 of the identified cases were in the Halifax area, while six were in the province's northern zone and one in the eastern zone.
They said there remains a cluster of cases in a localized community in the northern zone and evidence of limited community spread in Halifax and parts of northern Nova Scotia.
With 92 recoveries also reported, the province now has a total of 153 active infections.
Officials said three schools were informed of exposures over the past three days while one — Beechville Lakeside Timberlea Senior Elementary — is closed for the remainder of this week in order to contain the spread of the virus.
There are 11 people in hospital as a result of contracting novel coronavirus, including four patients in intensive care.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2021.
Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press