Advocate initiates comprehensive review of NB’s long-term care sector

Kelly Lamrock, New Brunswick's child, youth and elder advocate, wants to examine labor shortages, how the sector is governed and why so many elders are waiting in hospitals when there are vacancies.  (Jacques Poitras/CBC - photo credit)

Kelly Lamrock, New Brunswick’s child, youth and elder advocate, wants to examine labor shortages, how the sector is governed and why so many elders are waiting in hospitals when there are vacancies. (Jacques Poitras/CBC – photo credit)

The New Brunswick Child, Youth and Elderly Advocate is launching a comprehensive review of the province’s long-term care system.

Kelly Lamrock says he wants to examine labor shortages, how the sector is governed by a set of standards and why so many seniors are waiting in hospitals for jobs when there are vacancies.

“It just seemed like all of this required significant, systemic review,” Lamrock told reporters.

“This is going to be an opportunity to really bring people together and take a long, hard look at the kind of things that are holding us back from just managing it at a crisis level, to say, ‘Where are we going to go when our number of seniors continues to rise? expand?'”

Lamrock’s review will be independent, but the province is helping fund the $150,000 cost, which will allow him to conduct additional research beyond what his small office already has.

He will also appoint an advisory board and hold public meetings, all with the aim of having a report ready by October.

Not prompted by Neguac incidents

He said the review was not prompted by the province’s recent revocation of operating licenses for two specialty care homes in Neguac.

His office can investigate such special circumstances when they are exceptional, but the challenges facing the sector go beyond a single home or incident.

“If anything, it’s depressingly normal to see people not getting the care they need in a place they need.”

Lamrock said a guiding principle of his review will be that New Brunswickers have the right to age “in the least institutional, most community-based way possible.”

He will study the implications of giving seniors alternative care in non-dedicated hospitals managed by the Department of Health, while the privately managed homes they are waiting for are regulated by the Department of Social Development.

“One of the challenges is portability between departments. Are we still managing in silos?”

Horizon Health estimates that around 30 percent of the acute beds in its hospitals are occupied by people who don’t need hospital care but are waiting to be admitted into long-term care.

Jan Seely, president of the New Brunswick Special Care Home Association, said there are now 800 beds available in the province – more than the number of people waiting for care.

But she said it’s more complicated than a one-to-one equation because some homes provide different levels of care for different types of people.

“It’s not that simple,” she said.

Vanessa Blanch/CBC

Vanessa Blanch/CBC

“There are many barriers. There are guidelines. There is the assessment process. There are people who don’t understand our level of care.”

She said Lamrock’s review should help.

“I think it’s very important,” she said. “We wholeheartedly support it as a board.”

Former hospital and long-term care administrator Ken McGeorge said the long-term care system has “certainly been a hodgepodge for many years – niches of excellence and niches of concern”.

He said a review was long overdue.

Jacques Poitras/CBC

Jacques Poitras/CBC

“I personally hope that this will be the time when we really bring the real issues to the table, not the political issues, not the fake issues, not the things that make you feel good, but the real issues. “

Liberal MLA Robert Gauvin, the party’s seniors and long-term care critic, also hailed Lamrock’s initiative as a way to address myriad growing challenges.

“It’s happening right now and we have to deal with it,” he said.

He said he plans to introduce legislation in the spring to address a shortcoming in provincial oversight of nursing homes exposed by the situation in Neguac.

While the Minister for Social Development has the statutory power to place a nursing home with administrative problems under a trusteeship, specialist nursing homes do not have that power.

Jacques Poitras/CBC

Jacques Poitras/CBC

Gauvin said his bill will seek to rectify that.

Neguac’s revocations affected 29 residents, although one of the two houses, Villa Neguac, has been bought by a new owner since the province moved.

The Ministry of Social Development announced Monday that it had granted Villa Neguac a new temporary operating permit, allowing it to remain open.

Canada’s Health Standards Organization recently released new national standards for long-term care homes, part of a response to the high death toll in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, these standards are voluntary.

Lamrock said his review will address those standards.


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