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Many seniors die waiting for nursing home placement, stats show

Many seniors end up spending an extended period in hospital waiting for long-term care placement.
Many seniors end up spending an extended period in hospital waiting for long-term care placement. - SaltWire Network

TRURO, N.S. – The Truro area is among several regional communities with high numbers of death rates for long-term care patients awaiting transfer to nursing homes, the provincial NDP says.

“New data obtained by the NDP Caucus shows that the Northern zone of the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) has the highest death rate in the province for patients admitted to hospitals who require transfer to a long-term care facility,” the party said, in a news release issued Wednesday.

In the past five years, the release said, 23 per cent of such patients died before they could be transferred to an appropriate long-term care facility.

The provincial average, meanwhile, is 15.7 per cent.

“The Liberals have not opened a single new nursing home bed since they were elected and the result is that people are dying before they can access an appropriate level of care,” said Lenore Zann, MLA for Truro-Bible Hill-Milbrook-Salmon River. “What will it take for the Liberals to invest in our nursing homes so that seniors get the care they need?”

The NDP said the data, released through a Freedom of Information request, shows that 2,463 patients in the Northern zone were admitted to hospital and required transfer to a nursing home. Of those, 896 patients were eventually transferred to a long-term care facility while 575 patients died before they entered long-term care.

The remaining patients were either discharged or continued to wait.

“And that’s the highest death ratio in the province,” Zann said, of the Northern zone numbers, statistics she described as “very alarming.”

Zann said the data also shows 418 patients waited in hospital for between 91 days to a year, and eight patients waited more than a year.

The problem of long-term care patients is further compounded because it results in surgery cancellations or patients who are kept in hospital corridors because there are no beds available, she said.

Conversely, when the NDP were in power from 2009 to 2013, they created 1,000 new long-term care beds, Zann said, with plans to create another 350 had the party won a second term.

“The Liberals often say they reduced nursing home wait times but they actually did that by changing the criteria and knocking people off the wait list,” Zann said.

And from a financial perspective, she said, it would be far cheaper for the government to create new nursing home beds than to continue keeping large numbers of long-term care patients in hospitals.

According to figures from the Canadian Institute of Health Information’s website, it costs an average of slightly more than $1,300 per day for a hospital stay in Nova Scotia. The comparative cost for a long-term care facility is $250 per day.

Based on the 350-additional long-term care beds the NDP had proposed, that would amount to an annual cost of just under $32 million, compared to the $166 million that same number of patients is costing for long-term hospital care, Zann said.

And, the common-sense bottom line comes down to one simple equation, she said.

“We need more long-term care facilities, we really do.”

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