Premier Stephen McNeil says he is neither ready nor willing to put more money into hiring staff at Nova Scotia nursing homes. Instead, he will wait for a review of staffing, which the Health Department says is underway and could lead to changes a year or two from now.
The issue was raised after cabinet met on Thursday, in light of two recent deaths from infected bedsores. Harbourstone resident John Ferguson died last October and Parkstone resident Chrissy Dunnington this March.
Last year, 400 complaints were filed under the Protection of Persons in Care Act. In Ontario, a class action against two corporations that own nursing homes has been launched by families of residents who allege severely infected bedsores are examples of neglect.
The premier acknowledged people being admitted to nursing homes today are more frail and require more care than they did 30 years ago.
“My wife works at a nursing home,” said McNeil. “There’s no question the load of care and the complicated cases we see in longterm care facilities has certainly increased.”
That said, the McNeil government has made nochanges to the staff-to-patient ratios set out in legislation that is 30 years old, namely the Homes for Special Care Act. Homes are still
funded based on one Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) per 30 residents and one Registered Nurse (RN) “in the building” for up to 100 people.
A continuing care strategy has been bandied about for four years. The Nova Scotia Nurses Union issued a report called Broken Homes two years ago, begging for change.
But neither those facts, nor the shocking photographs submitted by families of people who have died under questionable circumstances, have convinced the province of the urgency to improve staffing in long-term care homes.
“The (health) minister will go through that and look at those cases and we will base it on evidence, and move forward,” said McNeil.
“These are devastating moments for families and the courage they are showing to come forward is not being taken lightly by me or by the department. We respect the effort they are making, and we are following through on what we have heard and will report back to Nova Scotians.”
In the meantime, this newspaper is hearing more stories from other families, which we will research in the days ahead.
In 2015, a New Brunswick court convicted the owner of a small Bathurst nursing home of criminal negligence causing death. In that case, a judge sentenced Patricia Pitre to eight months in jail and two years probation.
Joseph Harvey Henry, 74, had been a resident at the Pitre Special Care Home for 29 years. He died from heart failure related to a gangrenous bedsore on his hip which exposed the bone. He had other bedsores on his body.
Although Pitre had consulted a doctor and the resident was on antibiotics, the court ruled she made “a reckless error” by not calling 911 earlier and by not notifying New Brunswick’s health department about the severe bed sores, a requirement of the home’s licence.