A construction site featuring opened chained link fencing, beyond which you can see gravel, trees, blue sky with clouds, and a yellow piece of construction equipment digging into rock.
Construction beside the Sagewood in Lower Sackville on Cobequid Road, Nov. 20, 2023. A new 144-room long-term care facility is slated to open there in 2025. Credit: Yvette d’Entremont

The Houston government has announced a multi-year plan to build an additional 2,200 nursing home beds across Nova Scotia.

Currently about 2,000 Nova Scotians are waiting for placement in long-term care — 300 of those people are in hospital and the other 1,700 are in communities. The majority are receiving some home care support.  

The 2,200 new beds will be built over nine years and include 800 new single rooms with bathrooms and 1,400 replacement or renovated single rooms in existing facilities. Monday’s announcement builds on an announcement made in January when the province announced the construction of 3,500 new or replacement single rooms with private bathrooms. 

“We’re investing in communities across the province to make sure that Nova Scotians have the security they need as they age,” Seniors and Long-term Care Minister Barbara Adams said during an announcement Monday.  

“These 5,700 new and replacement rooms will mean that seniors can live with dignity and enjoy high-quality care in comfortable surroundings. By investing in long-term care, we are also reducing the pressure on our hospitals and emergency rooms, which translates into better health care for everyone.”  

The 5,700 number mentioned by the minister includes the rooms announced Monday as well as rooms announced last January. By 2030, it’s estimated that 25% of Nova Scotia’s population will be over the age of 65.  One new nursing home — the Villa Acadienne — has opened in the Municipality of Clare.

Thirty-four nursing homes are currently in the process of replacing existing rooms; the first single rooms are expected to be ready in 2025. As many as 3,500 new or renovated rooms are targeted to open by 2027.

You can learn about the timelines and progress reports for the facilities in each health zone here.  

Lack of staff barrier to meeting demand

Officials with the Department of Seniors and Long-term Care told reporters the purpose of developing a nine-year timetable is to spread out the building and the staffing of the new facilities. Human resources are a constraint on meeting the demand.  

Adams said population estimates will be reviewed annually to determine if and where more rooms will be required in the future. 

Of the 800 new rooms announced Monday, three tenders have been awarded in Halifax Regional Municipality where the waiting list is longest. Gem will add a 48-room expansion to its care home in Tantallon. Shannex Inc. has been awarded contracts to build two new 144-bed facilities in Bedford — one on Seton Drive near Mount Saint Vincent University and the other on Starboard Drive.

Adams said more nursing home announcements will be made in different communities across the province over the next several weeks.    

An official with the department estimates the cost to build and operate one new nursing home bed for a year is $160,000. This includes mortgage and staffing costs paid to the operator of the long-term care facility.

The estimated cost (in today’s dollars) to build 800 new beds is $128 million. Renovations are less expensive with a ballpark for that construction estimated at $56 million. 

Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

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  1. Like another commenter, I don’t quite understand the numbers here. The Herald also uses the same numbers but more clearly expresses them as costs to the government of Nova Scotia while the Examiner writes “This includes mortgage and staffing costs paid to the operator of the long-term care facility.”

    The reports assume a knowledge of how the funding of long-term care works and what is the role of the private operators like Shannex and Gem.

    It would appear that government pays for the construction and operation of the facilities and yet there is a private sector operator and there are not insignificant charges to the users of the facilities. This leaves me wondering what do companies like Shannex and Gem contribute or have at risk in this arrangement?

  2. We had a wonderful activist for disabled rights and housing outside of institutions. Jen Powley died in September. She fought against warehousing people in institutions. Many others fought alongside her.
    Now the NS government is once again issuing all but blank cheques to nursing home “developers” and private owners in order to house thousands more elderly and severely disabled people. However that move will mean more warehousing in more institutions, and harder access to supportive community living. Scandinavian countries have a far more humane way of housing the elderly and severely disabled. They tend to live with supportive service providers in small village-like and community enclaves. Here in NS, the warehousing and institutionalization ramps up.

  3. From personal experience… an elderly uncle died a couple of years ago, and I had prepared an extensive obituary (full of mirth and facts and genealogical ties) that would have been prohibitive to run in Saltwire. We chose to use the “free” three-line “Death Notice” and simply rely on the Funeral Home’s webspace for the obit placement.

    While this was enormously more economical, it did give me pause for another reason, which connects with SaltWire’s boneheaded move: future access. Newspapers are *the place* to search for obits, everyone knows this. But if we embrace the Funeral Home-only publishing space, we are dependent upon that company to maintain an online archive. And who’s to say that won’t also be paywalled down the road (if it isn’t already in some markets). Funeral Homes are in the business of holding funerals and putting people in the ground / urn. Their technical ability to maintain an accessible and reliable web archive is likely hit-or-miss.

  4. All these numbers are confusing. Probably on purpose so as to distract from the real issues, which are … new / replacement beds over 9 (NINE!!) years to get us to the point, sort of, where we would be even today. And the fact that there are not enough staff to properly staff the beds and facilities that we have now and never mind if we actually add more beds and facilities. The issues faced today will be compounded in a few short years when more of our population is over 65.

  5. The wording and numbers are a bit confusing. How much capacity will be gained by this announcement I wonder? Changing wards and semi-privates to privates is better for privacy and infection control for sure but decreases capacity for the short term.