May 22nd, 2020

Action needed to ensure residents of long-term care protected in future outbreaks

HALIFAX -- The NDP is renewing its call for a public inquiry into long-term care in light of the pandemic. With over 50 deaths now reported at Northwood, the Liberal government must ensure that we understand what has happened there to better prepare for future outbreaks in long-term care facilities.

“Before COVID-19, the Liberal government was well aware of the serious issues facing our long-term care facilities, including staff shortages, insufficient staffing ratios, low wages, out-dated infrastructure,and the lack of long-term care spaces. The public has a right to know if and how these concerns have impacted our ability to respond to COVID-19,” said NDP Leader Gary Burrill.

No new long-term care facilities have been built since the Liberals took office in 2013, leaving many seniors in shared rooms. Under Stephen McNeil, the Liberals have also cut funding to long-term care facilities, and denied requests for necessary facility upgrades due to budget constraints.

In February, NDP MLA Lisa Roberts asked Health Minister Randy Delorey why the Liberal government had ignored a capital request from Northwood to phase out shared rooms and move to single-occupancy rooms. The NDP specifically pointed to the challenge of managing infection control with shared accommodations and bathroom facilities.

"We know now that COVID-19 will be part of our lives for some time to come. As we anticipate future waves of this virus, we need to do all we can to protect the people who live and work in long-term care from future outbreaks," said Burrill. "Through a public inquiry, we can hear from residents and their families, health care workers, medical experts, advocates, and the public, and thereby ensure that the monumental efforts being made at Northwood lead to the most constructive possible long-range result."

Since September 2018, two NDP bills have been before the Legislature regarding issues in long-term care. The Care and Dignity Act and the Nursing Home Transparency Act would provide more information to the public about recommendations to improve long-term care, and increase staffing levels to provide additional care to residents.