Union leaders are calling on the Nazi government to issue new health money in old people’s homes

Union leaders Janet Hazelton and Nan McFadgen appeared before the Nova Scotia Health Committee on Tuesday, February 14, 2023.  (Jean Laroche/CBC - photo credit)

Union leaders Janet Hazelton and Nan McFadgen appeared before the Nova Scotia Health Committee on Tuesday, February 14, 2023. (Jean Laroche/CBC – photo credit)

There isn’t even an agreement between Ottawa and the Nova Scotia government on extra money for health care, but on Tuesday the head of the province’s largest nursing union called on the ruling Progressive Conservatives to spend some of that potential new money on long-term care.

“It’s just sad and we’ve talked about it since I’ve been president, and that wasn’t yesterday,” Hazelton told the legislature’s health committee. “We just received a bunch of federal funding. We should use some of these federal funds to improve our long-term care, not just our acute care.

“Acute care has its problems, but long-term care — I think — is worse in some ways.”

Hazelton, who has been president of the Nova Scotia Nurses Union for 20 years, said MLAs seniors are not getting the level of care they deserve and have been for decades – despite promises from successive governments to improve things.

She said it was unfortunate that those in need of care were only bathed once a week.

“We don’t treat our kids that way at IWK,” Hazelton said. “We have to improve the system.”

The case to invest in long-term care

“People in this province have to make a decision, we either invest in long-term care or we don’t,” she said. “And if we can live with that, then let’s live with it, let’s tell our seniors that this is your life.”

This sentiment was shared by Nan McFadgen, President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Nova Scotia.

“Either we have to decide whether or not the residents who live in care and the people who care for them are worth the investment,” McFadgen said. “If you go with no, then I will not agree with it. I’ll probably lose my mind.”

Assistant Assistant Secretary for the Department of Seniors and Long-Term Care Tracey Barbrick told the committee the Houston government is already spending millions of dollars to ensure seniors are well cared for and beds stay open.

She said the province has spent $30 million since the fall of 2021 hiring traveling nurses to work in long-term care homes.

“Probably 16 months ago we had closed 500 nursing home beds in the province,” she said. “Travel nurses have been part of the strategy as we build an adequate workforce that meets the needs of the sector as a short-term plan.”

Jean Laroche/CBC

Jean Laroche/CBC

Barbrick estimates that just a handful of the province’s 8,052 long-term care beds are currently closed due to staff shortages.

Not long after the meeting, the department sent reporters an updated estimate of travel expenses, or the cost of temporary nurses.

“The Department’s current estimate for continuing care travel staff is approximately $45 million,” communications consultant Khalehla Perrault wrote in an email to CBC News.

Negotiations with Ottawa continue

Although Hazelton said she was “shocked” by the original figure, Assistant Secretary Paul LaFleche defended the Houston government’s approach to long-term care staff shortages.

“I just want to say one thing, in almost 20 years as an MP I have never seen a government so committed to doing whatever it takes,” LaFleche told the committee in his closing statement. “You can look at … cash and travel nurses, and they’re doing everything they can to keep these facilities open to open beds and to make sure seniors are treated with dignity.”

As for the possibility of using the extra money that could come out of Ottawa for a new healthcare contract, Barbrick told reporters after the meeting she wasn’t sure.

“So we have an existing bilateral agreement [agreement] now for home and community care. Thirteen million dollars a year comes to our department to support home care. What the next negotiations will entail is still ongoing, so I think it would be premature to comment on that,” Barbrick said.

“Until these negotiations with the federal government have been completed, I cannot comment on this.”



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