Nursing home group calls for long-term care act

CHRIS MORRIS Legislature Bureau – Telegraph-Journal

January 14, 2015
FREDERICTON • People involved in long-term care in New Brunswick say big changes are needed to avoid the kind of log jams caused by the growing number of seniors waiting for openings in nursing homes.

Physicians, nursing home officials and special care home operators all expressed concern on Wednesday about the province’s failure to address the problem of elderly people languishing in hospitals and bogging down the health-care system when they should be in long-term care facilities.

The Health Department says there are more than 400 elderly people waiting in New Brunswick hospitals for beds in nursing homes.

“We’re behind the eight ball,” said Jodi Hall, director of operations for the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes.

“We have known that the province’s demographics were changing for the past 30 years, and there just wasn’t the planning put in place for it … Now it has become critical. As soon as we are able, we need to put systems in place that will allow us to adapt to the realities of our aging population and support people where they want to be.”

The nursing home association has released a report it circulated earlier to elected politicians calling for, among other things, the creation of a Long Term Care Act to replace out-of-date nursing home legislation, and a new strategy to lure more workers into homes.

Amy Klassen, who owns and operates the McNair Manor special care homes in the Moncton area, said New Brunswick’s long-term care system has been held back by overly complex bureaucratic policies.

The province has an array of levels used to place seniors in care facilities and decide how much public subsidization they can receive.

“I think we over-complicate things with the layering of policies,” Klassen said.

“It shouldn’t be so complex: You take a patient, you understand how much care they require … and you offer subsidization based on care requirements. It’s not based on diagnosis or personal opinion but on the hours of care required.”

Klassen is unhappy about the province’s lack of consultation with special care home operators.

She also is angry over a bureaucratic change to the Level 3B admission criteria, which has effectively excluded many seniors who need subsidized care.

“The new 3B admission criteria eliminated access to the beds to 50 per cent of the former residents,” Klassen said. “So while simultaneously trying to grow the program, the admission criteria was narrowed. Therefore, the queue for nursing homes is longer.”

In 2012, the previous Tory government quietly added the requirement that level 3B seniors had to have advanced dementia, in addition to other medical needs. The Tories also said they would add about 700 special care home beds, but Klassen said only about 100 have been put in place so far.

New Brunswick physicians also are speaking out about the issue.

This week, Dr. Ben Hoyt, chief of surgery at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton, said 36 non-emergency surgeries have been cancelled since September because there are too many seniors waiting for nursing home beds in the hospital.

“Since September, we’ve seen an increasing need to cancel scheduled surgeries because there’s no place for patients to go post-operatively,” Hoyt said, adding there are 92 elderly patients waiting at the Chalmers for long-term care placements.

Dr. Camille Haddad, president of the New Brunswick Medical Society, said Hoyt is not the only concerned doctor.

“Doctors are very serious about the issues associated with seniors who are stuck in hospitals when they don’t medically need to be there,” Haddad said.

“This issue needs action … Doctors have delivered over a dozen different ideas to government over the last several years on how to fix this issue, as no one idea will do. Building nursing homes is not a popular suggestion but is a necessity.”

Haddad said he is encouraged by Health Minister Victor Boudreau’s promise to take serious policy issues to address the issue.

On Wednesday, Boudreau said the problem of lack of long-term care beds is not new, and the province is trying to deal with it.

“For quite some time now, we’ve had a considerable number of seniors in hospital beds across the province that have been medically discharged but simply can’t leave the hospital until there are adequate services in their community, whether that be home care, special care bed, nursing home,” Boudreau said in an interview.

“It does certainly cause a stress on the system.”

Boudreau said the Health Department and the Department of Social Development, which is responsible for nursing homes, are working on the problem.

“There’s no easy solution,” he said.

“But I think we are going to have to look at the services that are provided in the communities.”

That includes nursing homes, specialized care homes and home support services, said Boudreau.

“There’s a plan out there to construct new nursing home beds as well, but obviously a nursing home bed doesn’t fall from the sky,” he said.

The new government has committed to expanding home care and introducing a new Long Term Care Act to streamline the system.

-With files from Stephen Llewellyn

Share Button

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *