The Houston government announced Wednesday it will fund an additional 1,200 new single rooms in nursing homes by the end of 2027.
The province currently has 8,000 beds in 133 facilities, so the expansion represents a 15% increase in the total number of rooms available to Nova Scotians who need them.
“Too many seniors are in hospitals and at home waiting to get into long-term care,” said Barbara Adams, Minister of Seniors and Long-Term Care. “Adding more single rooms will help ensure we can meet this need now and in the future, so that Nova Scotians can continue to rely on our long-term care system to provide the care they need, if and when they need it.”
Last February, the Progressive Conservative government issued tenders to build 500 new rooms in metropolitan Halifax.
On Wednesday, the government announced that Gem Healthcare, Shannex Inc, Northwoodcare, and Rosecrest Communities have not only been awarded that work, but will also build an additional 300 rooms at undisclosed locations in Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford, and Sackville.
Northwoodcare president Janet Simm confirmed Northwood will build about one-quarter of these new rooms.
Meanwhile, the wait for nursing home placements will continue to put pressure on hospital beds as well as family caregivers. Most of these new 800 beds are targeted to open between 2025 and 2027. In addition, the government plans to convert rooms at assisted-living complexes and some residential care facilities.
Seventy new rooms will also be added at several long-term care facilities where the previous Liberal government began the process of replacing or renovating 2,300 existing rooms to eliminate the “double-bunking” and shared rooms that allow infectious diseases such as COVID-19 and influenza to spread rapidly.
Adams acknowledged the expansion won’t supply enough rooms to keep pace with the demand for long-term care. There are currently 2,000 people waiting for a place in nursing homes, with 280 taking up beds in hospitals. Demographic trends predict the 225,000 seniors living in Nova Scotia now will grow to 300,000 over the next decade.
Faced with an obvious shortfall, Adams said the new rooms are just one element of the government’s approach to providing care to seniors.
“We know that we need more beds, but we also know we need to do a better investment in home care,“ Adams said. “Things like the capable program, which is a new program we announced, is going to send a nurse in for four visits and an occupational therapist in for six visits to help a family understand what the frail senior needs to stay at home…so, it’s a two-pronged approach: investing in home care at the same time we are building 1,200 extra beds in long-term care.”
Announcement greeted with mixed reviews
The province currently spends about $870 million a year to staff and operate long-term care facilities. The government estimates it will cost an extra $250 million a year to pay for staffing, heating, and food attached to the new and renovated rooms.
Adams is convinced staffing is improving. She said ongoing recruitment efforts overseas, as well as a pay raise of 23%, is starting to make “a significant dent” in the shortages of continuing care assistants. The province has also provided free tuition to students entering the CCA field and millions of dollars to nursing home operators, which they can use to cover expenses such as transportation and child care to help retain workers.
“We are pleased with today’s announcement,” said Ron Swan, incoming chair of the Seniors Advisory Council, which represents nine different volunteer organizations. “It’s a significant step forward for continuing care in Nova Scotia.”
Parsing the promises
Representatives of both opposition parties also applauded the announcement to build more rooms for seniors. But they also criticized Wednesday’s announcement for failing to live up to the PC’s election promise made in July 2021.
The PC platform document contains a section titled “Dignity for Our Seniors.” The first bullet point promises to “open an additional 2,500 single long-term care beds within three years.” Wednesday’s announcement promises 3,500 new and replacement beds over the next four years. Of those,1,200 are “new” or in addition to those being replaced.
“I think they were too cute by half,” said Bedford MLA Kelly Regan, standing in for Liberal leader Zach Churchill who was absent. “The Conservatives talked about new beds coming in, and then after the election they clarified that they meant ‘replacement and new.’ And it’s funny because the beds they said were inadequate from us, they’ve rolled into their total now — so that’s politics.”
“Any announcement of long-term care beds is a good announcement, but it is not enough, and it is not what the government promised in their election platform,” said Susan Leblanc, MLA for Dartmouth North and the NDP’s health spokesperson. “It is not even enough beds for the wait list we currently have.”
- 2023 will see only 48 additional or “net new” beds, and these will be available at Kiknu in Eskasoni.
- Renovations at the Mahone Bay Nursing Home and Villa Acadienne in Meteghan will also be completed this year.
- By 2025, the government anticipates 812 additional beds will open at seven new nursing homes and seven renovated facilities.
- By 2027, another 360 beds will increase capacity further.
Six facilities expected to open in 2023
- Mahone Nursing Home
- Villa Acadienne
- Kiknu Long-Term Care Facility
- 3 converted assisted living complexes
14 facilities expected to open in 2025
- Taigh Solas
- Mountain Lea Lodge
- The Birches
- RC MacGillivray Guest Home
- Carefield/Dominion Guest Home
- Gables Lodge
- Highland Manor
- 7 new facilities in Central Zone
17 facilities expected to open in 2027
- Waterford Heights
- Grandview Manor
- Shoreham Village
- Foyer Pere Fiset
- Queens/Hillsview Acres
- Dykeland Lodge
- Harbour View Haven
- Wolfville Nursing Home
- Melville Lodge
- Glen Haven
- Victoria Haven
- RK MacDonald
- Valley View Villa
- St. Anne’s Community & Nursing Care Centre
- Roseway Nursing Home
- Maple Hill Manor