August 25, 2016 1:46 pm
Updated: August 25, 2016 2:52 pm

Concerns over Nova Scotia nursing home food should lie with facility: premier

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Nova Scotia’s premier is defending his government’s record on funding for nursing home food, saying a large Halifax care facility that’s been criticized for bland food has a significant budget surplus.

The opposition parties have said a per-person food budget of less than $6 per day per resident at Northwood isn’t sufficient, and are linking the complaints to budget reductions for long term care in the last Liberal budget.

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Stephen McNeil says Northwood – one of the province’s largest long-term care facilities – is making its own decisions on how much is being spent on food.

“They’re complaining about the blandness of the food and the preparation and this very nursing home we’re talking about had a surplus … It doesn’t sound like a shortage of money,” he said.

READ MORE: Budget cuts forcing possible fee hikes at Northwood

“Our job as a government is to provide the overall budget and make sure they’re following overall criteria, which is to the Canada Food Guide.”

A spokesperson from the care facility wasn’t available for comment.

However, the Conservative and NDP opposition have said the McNeil government’s reduction in funding to nursing homes has played a role in squeezing operating budgets for food and staffing levels.

“It’s not like it’s only Northwood. This is happening in nursing homes across the province. The Liberals have cut their budgets and people who run those homes are forced to cut the things they can cut, which directs them to food,” said Jamie Baillie, the Conservative leader.

The New Democrats have also raised the issue, and recently released figures obtained through a freedom of information request to the Health Department indicating the budgets of individual nursing homes and residential care facilities across the province are being reduced.

READ MORE: Spending details outlined for $14 M budgeted for N.S. seniors home-care

The province’s 2016-17 budget projected a cut of about $3.1 million to long-term care facilities, with the Liberals saying most of it could come out of administrative savings.

“The real effect of Stephen McNeil’s talk about ‘fiscal restraint’ is that the residents of nursing homes and care facilities are forced to make do with less,” said NDP Leader Gary Burrill in the release.

“It is absurd to think that you can cut … from nursing home and residential care budgets without impacting programming, diet or staff.”

Health minister Leo Glavine said after cabinet meetings that he hasn’t heard directly from families of any reduction in the portions or quality of food being provided.

He also said an unannounced inspection of Northwood didn’t reveal any differences in food preparation from the past two years.

He said the nursing homes are meeting the requirements of the Canada Food Guide in terms of nutritional content of the food being provided.

© 2016 The Canadian Press

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