NL is committed to reviewing long-term care and nursing homes

Health Secretary Tom Osborne says a review of long-term care and nursing homes will help 'change' the system in Newfoundland and Labrador.  (Danny Arsenault/CBC - photo credit)

Health Secretary Tom Osborne says a review of long-term care and nursing homes will help ‘change’ the system in Newfoundland and Labrador. (Danny Arsenault/CBC – photo credit)

Danny Arsenault/CBC

Danny Arsenault/CBC

Newfoundland and Labrador Health Minister Tom Osborne says the provincial government will conduct a comprehensive review of long-term care and personal care homes in the province, a move critics say is long overdue.

Osborne announced the review Thursday morning at the Confederation Building and said it was expected to take six to eight months. The purpose of the review is to improve the quality of life for residents of care facilities, increase staff engagement and improve staff working lives, he said.

“We’re going to look at things like spouse separations. We will look at best practices both outside and inside the province,” Osborne said.

“This will help transition our personal care and long-term care to seniors and others who need that support across Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Osborne wouldn’t say there are flaws in the long-term care and nursing home system, but there is room for improvement.

In October, provincial seniors attorney Susan Walsh renewed her push for a full review of the system, which she described as “mothering pain” based on some stories her office heard.

“Seniors deserve better in their adult lives. They gave everything to this province and they deserve better treatment,” she said at the time.

Osborne acknowledged that the announced review partially responds to Walsh’s recommendation, but added that it’s “something the government definitely wanted to do”.

“This is an important review. She will give us guidance and advice,” he said.

The examination board consists of Dr. Susan Mercer, Eastern Health’s Clinical Chief of Older Adult Care; dr Janice Keefe, Director of the Nova Scotia Center on Aging and Chair of the Department of Family Studies and Gerontology at Mount Saint Vincent; and Kelli O’Brien, President and CEO of St. John’s Care Group and former Vice President of Western Health.

This panel will also invite someone with experience in the long-term care and personal care system to the advisory board.

“I think what we’re seeing is that the complexity of care is increasing and we really want to know that our staff are prepared for that. I think that ties into some of the staffing issues we’re seeing,” Mercer said.

Paul Daly/CBC

Paul Daly/CBC

Osborne said the provincial government is looking at ways to deal with the long waiting list times for adults who need long-term care.

“Part of this is looking at admission criteria and whether there can be an expanded role for nursing homes in terms of accommodating some of the less acute Level 3 admissions that are currently going into nursing homes,” he said.

“We currently have beds available but no staff to attend to some individuals in long-term care as we speak. If we improve the quality of working life for people in long-term care, they would be more willing and more focused on work in long-term care.”

Long called for change: opposition

PC health critic Paul Dinn said the review should have happened years ago.

“We knew an older population was coming, an older population, and nothing was done. They can go back to 2015 and earlier and there have been reports of it,” he said.

“When people start bringing real issues to the table, this government is finally responding. It’s heartbreaking… Until I see the final product, I won’t be happy.”

Interim NDP leader Jim Dinn said “It’s about time,” adding his party had been calling for changes in long-term care for some time.

“I can tell you that our office, my office in particular, has spent the past few months addressing the issues of people struggling to have loved ones an hour and a half away in St . John’s,” he said.

“Look at not just the staffing issue, but also how do we keep people out of these care homes and let them live independently and in their own community for as long as possible? That’s an investment in people that this government needs to realize.”

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