Telegraph-Journal – Senior Care Policy Under Fire

Senior Care Policy Under Fire1Senior Care Policy Under Fire2

CHRIS MORRIS Legislature Bureau
September 18, 2014

FREDERICTON • Amy Klassen still can’t believe the notation she read recently on the medical chart of an elderly patient which said the woman “was fit to reside in the hallway” of a hospital.

Klassen, who owns and operates the McNair Manor special care homes in the Moncton area, has been engaged in a long and difficult battle with the Department of Social Development over a policy change that effectively shuts the door of special care homes to many seniors.

“No one is fit to reside in a hallway,” Klassen said in an interview Wednesday, as she appealed for political will when it comes to long-term care for seniors in New Brunswick.

“Our seniors and their families are being blocked from accessing affordable and practical solutions.”

Klassen is unhappy that more attention has not been paid to the special care home problem on the election trail, despite the circulation of about 90,000 flyers by an affected family prior to the start of the campaign that highlighted concerns with senior care in the province.

Klassen’s homes and other specialized care homes now have empty beds in their facilities because of the Tory government’s change to admission criteria which has effectively eliminated access to subsidies for about three-quarters of what are called “level 3B seniors” – seniors who have medical needs and require personal care but who can walk, perhaps with the aid of a walker.

In 2012, the Tory government quietly added the requirement that level 3B seniors also had to have advanced dementia.

Klassen illustrated the problem using the case of a woman who, prior to the 2012 change, was a level 3B patient with medical problems including kidney failure, but who was disqualified from receiving a subsidy after the policy change because her dementia was not sufficiently advanced.

“In that case, because she had only lost a kidney, she didn’t qualify for funding. If she had lost her mind, she would have,” Klassen said.

“In the last 12 months, seven out of 15 of my new admissions have been denied access to any subsidy by the Department of Social Development.”

Klassen’s concerns about the policy change have been given weight by access to information and privacy commissioner, Anne Bertrand, who recently released a report arising from Klassen’s effort to get information on how the Tory government arrived at its decision on level 3B seniors.

Bertrand highlights “lax practices” at the Department of Social Development that raise “serious questions about whether the department did conduct thorough research to ensure that it took all relevant considerations into account in making the decision the change the admission criteria (for special care homes) in this fashion.”

Bertrand said the public has a right to know how government bodies make decisions but, in this case, the people within the department who apparently researched the issue could only recall from memory what studies and reports were used to justify the policy change.

Bertrand said the lack of detailed and precise information undermines the ability of the Department of Social Development to defend its decision.

When contacted for comment on Wednesday afternoon, a Social Development spokesman said the department was unable to respond at that time.

The government subsidy for special care homes is up to $3,685 per month.

The costs at the homes vary according to the level of service provided but on average are usually higher than the government subsidy.

The costs in Klassen’s facilities are $4,350 to $4,650 per month.

Some families are digging deep into savings accounts to put loved ones into special care homes and pay the full amount themselves. But the policy change means many seniors are simply waiting in hospitals and on long lists for nursing home beds.

The government subsidy for nursing home care runs to a maximum of about $8,000 per month.

“Level 3B special care homes can meet the needs of roughly 50 per cent of the nursing home wait list, at an average of about one-fifth the cost to the province,” Klassen said.

“My concern is political leaders need to concern themselves with details of this nature and I haven’t seen the political will to really manage the details at Social Development. Therefore some of these projects and initiatives are failing from many angles not only financially but from a human rights perspective. The way seniors have been treated in this category of care is unacceptable.”

The financial subsidy for both nursing home and special care home placement is income based. If a senior has an income of $2,500, that senior receives $1,185 per month in financial assistance from the province in a special care home.

In a nursing home, that same senior would receive about $5,500 per month in financial assistance.

“There are people living in hallways in the hospitals waiting for nursing home beds who could walk into my building at a fraction of the cost to the province,” Klassen said.

“It is just poorly written policy on the part of the Department of Social Development. I want to see a political leader commit to more rigorous accountability by the department. … If collaboration was improved with front-line workers and if long-held biases and misunderstandings were let go, we could find solutions.”

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2 thoughts on “Telegraph-Journal – Senior Care Policy Under Fire

  1. Jennifer Eden

    Amy, Jake and everyone else fighting this battle ….. Stay strong. The seniors of NB are lucky to have such passionate people fighting for them. As the article says …. No one deserves to live in a hallway when there is wonderful (and less expensive) care just around the corner!!!!

  2. G. CLUNEY

    Friends of mine in Montreal tell me corridors in hospitals there are regularly
    filled with in-bed-patients such also the case in Vancouver and other cities across Canada, not just New Brunswick.


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