May 7th, 2020

COVID-19 highlights desperate need for more support, investment in long-term care

HALIFAX-- The NDP is calling on the Liberal government to address serious and long-standing, systemic issues in long-term care.

“As with so many things, COVID-19 is shining a light on where we must do better as a province,” said NDP Leader Gary Burrill. “For years, front-line workers, residents, family members, health experts and administrators have raised concerns about systemic issues within long-term care. Prior to COVID-19, there were legitimate concerns about staff shortages, insufficient staffing levels, lack of long-term care spaces, and outdated facilities. Now, everyone can see that we must come at these issues with the urgency they deserve.”

The Liberal government has not built any new long-term care beds since taking office in 2013. Under the Liberal government, long-term care facilities have also faced funding cuts, and several facilities have been denied necessary upgrades due to budget constraints.

Long-term care facilities are on the front line of the current COVID-19 outbreak, particularly the Northwood facility in Halifax. Once the current outbreak of COVID-19 is contained, a public inquiry into the COVID-19 outbreak at Northwood should be undertaken to improve our understanding of what changes are necessary in long-term care. The inquiry could be led by the existing Minister’s Expert Advisory Panel on Long Term Care.

“Public health officials, administrators, and front-line staff are doing their best in responding to the pandemic,” said Burrill. “At the same time, residents of our long-term care facilities have been significantly affected by COVID-19; and we need to take stock of the situation and ensure we support everyone involved now and into the future.”

The NDP tabled two bills in September 2018 to address 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.