TRURO - Recognizing private care facilities as nursing homes could immediately free up badly needed hospital beds, a local administrator says.
"I want it to be known that currently today there are 10 long-term care beds (available within Colchester County)," said Sheila Archibald, owner of Brentwood Ponds, a senior care home just outside Brookfield which offers 24-hour, full-time care and respite care.
"They are not government subsidized, they are in private-care homes. The hospital will not allow us to inform the seniors in hospital, waiting to be placed. They refused. They will not allow us to notify those seniors in there ... that there are other options."
The Colchester East Hants Health Authority announced this week that all 102 of its in-patient beds at Colchester Regional Hospital are currently full.
In fact, the "extremely" high demand for beds has resulted in delayed admissions to the hospital, the need to reschedule a number of surgeries and is backing up care in the emergency department.
Part of the problem is that 35 beds are occupied by patients who are awaiting placement to nursing homes or transfers to other care settings.
"The greatest challenge is that we cannot discharge many patients who need a transfer to another setting, because these beds they need are not available," hospital spokeswoman Krista Wood said. "This has a trickle-down effect, since little or no discharges from our inpatient units, prevents us from admitting new patients who are arriving through our ER or communities."
Archibald, however, said between her facility and Val's Resthome in Hilden, 10 spaces are available that could help free up hospital beds if the government would permit it.
"I think it's a crime, what they're doing," Archibald said. "Seniors should be subsidized, regardless, wherever they want to be."
Even if that is for a temporary stay while awaiting placement in a nursing home, she said.
Chris d'Entremont, health critic with the Nova Scotia Conservative Party and a former health minister, agrees.
"I think Truro has a better opportunity than other areas of the province," he said, because there aren't as many provincially supported and subsidized nursing homes in this area as in other parts of the province.
"I think there's an opportunity here, now that there's a number of new beds that have opened (throughout Truro and Colchester County) that we can go back to privates (facilities) and see if they have beds open."
And D'Entremont believes the government should be stepping in to subsidize such facilities to make them affordable for all Nova Scotians.
Health Minister Dave Wilson also agreed that efforts must continue to be made to improve the long-term care situation and he said the NDP is committed to doing that. But he also believes that long-term care should be a final choice, not the first choice, for seniors and that is why $22 million was added to this year's budget for home-care subsidization and related efforts.
"We recognize the importance of long term care and long-term care facilities and long-term care beds in the province," Wilson said. "But, more importantly, when you are talking about long-term care, you need to talk about home care .... So we've got to continue to invest in both."
Although previously unaware of the 10 beds available at the two private care facilities in Colchester, Wilson said he would check out the situation after it was brought to his attention by the Truro Daily News.
"We're working extremely hard. We know that this is a difficult area for people in the community who rely on the health care facility," he said.