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Many seniors die waiting for long-term care placement stats show

Hospital bed
Many seniors end up spending an extended period in hospital waiting for long-term care placement. FILE

More than one in five people in transitional care in hospitals in the Northern Zone of the Nova Scotia Health Authority die before they get a chance to go to a nursing home.

Information obtained by the NDP Caucus through a freedom of information request revealed that the Northern Zone of the Nova Scotia Health Authority has the highest death rate in the province for patients admitted to hospitals who require transfer to a long-term care facility.

In the past five years, 23 per cent of such patients died before they could be transferred to an appropriate long-term care facility. The provincial average is 15.7 per cent.

The Northern Zone of the NSHA includes the Municipality of East Hants, Colchester County, Cumberland County and Pictou County.

“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 five-year data shows that 2,463 patients in the Northern Zone were admitted to hospital and required transfer to a nursing home. Of these, 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.

The data also shows that 418 patients waited in hospital for between 91 days to a year, and eight patients waited over a year.

“We have large sections of many of our hospitals where the beds are occupied by people waiting for placement in long-term care,” said NDP Leader Gary Burrill. “These patients, most of them seniors waiting for long-term care, should not be forced to wait in hospital beds for months.”

In an interview with The News, Burrill said of all the problems that the province faces, this is an easy one to fix.

“We should be investing the funds in nursing home beds. Anybody who doubts that just needs to look at these figures we released today,” he said.

During the NDP government’s time in power, he said 1,000 new long-term care beds were opened and they had plans for opening an additional 350 before they lost in the 2013 election to the Liberals. Since then no new beds have been opened.

Burrill said the NDP expected to pay $17.5 million to open the 350 new additional beds, a move cancelled by the Liberals. This past year though the province had more than a $20 million surplus which he says shows it would be possible for the government to have added those beds.

He describes it as being a case of being pennywise and pound foolish by the Liberals because the money they aren’t putting into long-term care facilities is costing them in hospitals.

“We find there are acute-care spaces in our hospitals that are being filled by people who aren’t hospital patients at all,” Burrill said. “This is deeply connected to the problems we have with emergency rooms across the province.”

While the staff in hospitals do their best to provide good care for these people in transitional care, “a hospital is not a nursing home,” Burrill said.

While in hospital seniors waiting for long-term care placement don’t have access to the same level of recreational programming and community they can in a nursing home.

Burrill is calling on the government to make an immediate investment in nursing home beds.

Carla Adams, senior media relations advisor with the Nova Scotia Health Authority said there are currently 25 people waiting for long term care that are living in hospitals in the Northern Zone.

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