BRENTWOOD - All Nova Scotia seniors should be eligible for the same subsidies, regardless of where they call home, the owners of two private care facilities say.
And Sheila Archibald, owner of the Brentwood Ponds near Brookfield, said she is in the process of contacting Health Minister David Wilson on the matter.
"Why shouldn't every senior be subsidized, instead of, ‘We will subsidize you but you go where we tell you?"' Archibald said.
Archibald and Val Dorey, owner of Val's Resthome in Hilden, both run private-care facilities, which unlike licensed nursing homes, do not receive government subsidization for the seniors they care for.
Between the two facilities there currently are 10 empty beds, which the women believe would go a long ways towards easing the bed shortage at the Colchester Regional Hospital. Both Archibald and Dorey believe the government needs to make immediate changes to its regulations to bring private care facilities under the subsidization umbrella, even if that means their homes have to be brought up to safety and fire codes.
"They need to put rules and regulations in place for seniors care in private care homes with 24-hour care and supervision," Archibald said.
"But we have been advised by NDP Gary Burrill (MLA for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley) as well as deputy minister of health (Kevin McNamara) that this government will not change their policy regarding subsidizing our seniors to go into private care homes. There are existing private care homes in this province with empty beds due to the inability of government to make changes in their policy regarding the subsidies for seniors."
Currently, about 2,250 seniors across the province are on waiting lists for long-term care beds. The NDP government added $22 million to this year's budget to help seniors remain in their homes longer, part of which is used to provide a $400 per month allowance for low-income people who are receiving care in their homes from an otherwise unpaid caregiver.
Archibald believes that money should also be available to seniors living in private care facilities.
"All seniors should be subsidized regardless of what home they want to go to or if they want to stay in their own home," she said.
"All we're asking for is that there is an alternative for the seniors to have the choice to come to our private home or (if) waiting, until they get into the licensed home that they picked," Dorey added.
While the government's initiative to help enable seniors to remain in their own homes longer may have good intentions, the women said the fact remains that too many seniors who are living alone, "... that are in unsafe conditions and should not be there without 24-hour supervision."
Archibald said she has heard first-hand stories from caregivers who visit such homes of seniors "stumbling all over the place" or living in the midst of cat feces and urine.
"And the government is actually paying them to stay there in unsafe conditions," she said. "Unfortunately, most of the nurses aren't allowed to speak out."
The women said they got no satisfaction from their meetings with either McNamara or Burrill. And, quite to the contrary, both said they actually felt threatened by the response they received.
"His comment back to us was that we should keep quiet or we could be inspected and our homes would be shut down," Archibald said, of Burrill. "He sat there and advised us that the government wasn't going to make changes and that we should actually keep quiet, keep on doing what we're doing, and that if we make waves that the government could come in, do inspections and shut us down. I take that as a threat."
Dorey said she received the same message and that if they were to continue with their campaign for subsidization, it would be "opening up a whole new can of worms and it was better for us to keep quiet ..."
Burrill acknowledged meeting with the owners on the issue but he expressed shock that his intentions were perceived as threatening.
"I came to the conclusion in talking about trying to understand the changed situation of those private homes in South Colchester, in studying it and talking about it in the Department of Health, I came to the conclusion that their campaign to become subsidizable had no hope of success," he said.
"But I think that to speak of that as a threat or in the way that you've described to me, is an unfaithful interpretation of anything that I would have said."