Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin made several stops on a whirlwind campaign tour of the South Shore July 29, along with his wife Mary Chisholm.
He was on the hustings in Chester, Mahone Bay, Liverpool, Shelburne and Bridgewater, stopping to visit with residents and show support for the local Liberal candidates — Jacob Killawee, candidate for Chester-St. Margaret’s; Suzanne Lohnes-Croft for the Lunenburg riding; Susan MacLeod in Queens, Penny Smith in Shelburne and Jennifer Naugler in Lunenburg West.
The first stop of the day was in Chester at Shoreham Village Nursing Home, a facility that the Nova Scotia government announced earlier in January was tagged for a rebuild or renovation. It was one of seven facilities in the province listed in the January funding announcement.
In Mahone Bay, it was a stop at the construction site of the new private nursing home facility, while in Liverpool the premier called in to Queens Manor. The latter facility was among those the government announced in July would be part of a $96.5 million plan to rebuild or renovate 17 long-term care facilities in the province. Also in Queens, Hillsview Acres is scheduled to be replaced or renovated as well.
In total, the Liberal government has announced $152.6 million in spending to renovate and replace 2,362 beds in 24 facilities in the province. Included in that, 500 additional new beds will be added in communities with the greatest demand, with the aim of reducing the average wait time for a bed in long-term care homes to 60 days.
In Liverpool, Rankin acknowledged the dedication Queens Manor staff has shown during the pandemic.
“I can’t thank the staff enough over the last number of months, through the pandemic and certainly in the third wave, looking out for those that are most vulnerable and susceptible to this potentially severe disease,” he said, adding that one of his objectives over the campaign was to go to long-term care homes across the province to personally thank the staff.
“I’ve had stressful times in the premier’s office just looking at what was happening. I can just imagine the worry and anxiety and hard work you put in during this time to make sure our seniors are safe. So thank you for that.”
Noting he first met MacLeod at Queens Place Emera Centre during his run for the party’s leadership, he thanked her for highlighting the concerns of long-term care in Queens County.
“Queens Manor made the list of 17, on top of the seven that were announced in January,” said Rankin. “So 24 sites will be rebuilt, including this one, which is overdue but we need to make it happen. It’s going to take a few years, but the work is underway and it’s going to be a done deal.”
He indicated money has been added not just to replace facilities, but for staffing, operating, safety and wages.
MacLeod thanked the premier and said “it’s time now to really do something for our seniors to make sure they live in a comfortable environment that their families can come and visit. The time is now right for that.”
In an interview with Rankin prior to the meeting, he listed the top three priorities for his government as being recovering from the pandemic strongly with more employment opportunities for Nova Scotians, introducing $10-a-day child care, and health care.
“We have more Nova Scotians that need to be attached to primary care. The pandemic slowed down the process of recruiting doctors,” commented Rankin. He admitted the issue needs attention.
Meanwhile, he said, the government has made other strategic investments, including putting money towards replacing 24 aged facilities such as Queens Manor and HIllsview Acres.
“We are proud to be able to be in a position to rebuild beds with single rooms and better infection control,” said Rankin. “We continue to increase our funding to ensure we have more staff in these centres and provide more training opportunities for nurses.”
Recently the government announced it would direct $4 million over three years to create 270 new seats to train licenced practical nurses at the Nova Scotia Community College as part of a $69-million health care commitment announced July 26.
The Liberals announced their health care platform July 27, which included an additional $131 million to bolster the province’s health care system if elected. The party said the money would build on the nearly $400 million earmarked for health care in the budget tabled in March.
Rankin closed off his South Shore tour in Bridgewater doing some door-knocking with Lunenburg West candidate Naugler.
Kevin McBain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin