The Nova Scotia government says it will add 236 beds to nursing homes and replace hundreds of others as part of a new plan to improve long-term care.
“Our loved ones in long-term care deserve high quality care and safe and comfortable environments, and it is my hope that these changes will better serve the residents, their families and staff,” Premier Stephen McNeil said in a briefing on Friday.
One priority is Northwood in Halifax, where 53 residents died between April and July last year during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. A review in September found that shared rooms and bathrooms was one of the main reasons for the severity of the outbreak.
The province says a new Northwood nursing home will be built. It will be filled with 44 new beds, as well as 100 that were removed from double and triple rooms in the existing building last spring to make single rooms.
The remaining 192 new beds will be distributed to nursing homes determined through the tender process.
Reviews on infection prevention control recommended single rooms with single washrooms in nursing homes, said McNeil. As of last September, 58 per cent of long-term care rooms fit that description.
In addition to the new beds, seven nursing homes will be either replaced or significantly renovated. The first project is expected to be done by 2024-25.
The facilities were identified for immediate work based on their condition and the best practices for infection prevention and control. They are:
- 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
The province says spending on the first phase of the multi-year plan will increase the annual budget for capital repairs and equipment upgrades for facilities by $8 million, for a total of $10.5 million per year.
Single rooms for all residents?
Last July, PC Leader Tim Houston called for 2,500 new single rooms in long-term care homes, a move that would require funding from the federal government.
No federal funding is going toward this project, McNeil said Friday. Reviews for renovations are ongoing.
“It’s not as simple as just deciding today you’re just going to build X number of beds. You have to make sure you’re putting those beds in the right place for the right kind of care,” said McNeil. “You have to holistically look at our system when it comes to delivering care, and that’s what we did.”
As of September, the waiting list for long-term care was 1,429 people.
NDP Leader Gary Burrill said in a statement on Friday that the new beds and renovations are welcomed, but the investment isn’t enough and comes too late.
“Many residents will still not have their own room or their own washroom,” he said. “Residents of long-term care have made many sacrifices over the past year and we need to keep the pressure on this government for a commitment to a single room for every resident of long-term care in Nova Scotia.”
About the author
Sarah Moore is a journalist from Calgary who is working in Halifax.