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Fredericton 60-bed nursing home to open in next two years : Seniors minister

New Brunswick Seniors Minister Lisa Harris announces next steps in building new 60-bed Fredericton nursing home.
New Brunswick Seniors Minister Lisa Harris announces next steps in building new 60-bed Fredericton nursing home. Adrienne South/Global News

New Brunswick’s minister of seniors and long term care said the province will be moving ahead with building a new 60-bed nursing home in Fredericton.

Seniors Minister Lisa Harris announced the process for selecting the builder for the new nursing home is underway, with three proponents selected to move forward with formal request-for-proposals in the next few weeks.

“It’s very important for us a government to ensure that those who need nursing home care have a nursing home bed,” Harris said,  “So this is a very exciting announcement for the City of Fredericton.”

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Harris said she’s unaware of who the proponents are in the public-private-partnership and said that falls under Service New Brunswick.  She said the department will be given the information after a proponent is selected.

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The new nursing home was officially announced in 2015, around the time a new 240 bed nursing home was announced for Miramichi.

“In Miramichi we just announced we have a successful proponent that’s going to build 240 nursing home beds in Miramichi so once the two nursing homes that are currently there are closed we’re going to replace all of those beds, plus have an additional 26 beds,” said Harris.

She said there are approximately 50 people in Fredericton on the waiting list.

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New Brunswick Green Party leader and Fredericton MLA David Coon said the facility is overdue.

“It was supposed to be up and running last year and we’re still waiting for the shovels to be put in the ground,” Coon said, “We need to get on with it, it’s desperately needed and needs to get built and personally I think if the province just went ahead and built them themselves it would have been open today and the beds would have been occupied.”

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Coon said he believes the government needs to move back to the model of the province building the nursing homes and said they should get away from P3s.

He says there needs to be a greater sense of urgency to meet the growing need for seniors care, which was a common theme in the Auditor Generals 2011 report.

“[She] made a whole series of recommendations and one of them was for sure the number of nursing home beds that are going to be required in the future versus the plan for adding nursing home beds don’t line up. So we need a new approach to that, one that is directly driven by the government,” Coon said.

“I think if we move the responsibility for seniors and long term care into health and make this part of the health system we would see the kind of nursing care  or seniors who require nursing care getting it far more quickly in the residential situations,” Coon said.

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New Brunswick Senior Citizens Federation president Léonard LeBlanc said 60 beds likely isn’t enough. He thinks home care is the solution.

“The government doesn’t seem to want to act too much on home care,” LeBlanc said.  “People want to stay in their homes as long as possible.  When they cannot stay in their homes any longer then they will go to the nursing home and when they go to the nursing home they won’t come out.”

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LeBlanc said the province’s Home First program is a good approach, but said he’d like to see it go further.

“It’s got to be home care,” LeBlanc said.  “The government knows how to do it I think, but they don’t want to start doing it…people can stay in their home as long as possible and it’d be cheaper for the province to do that because I know there are people in hospital taking beds who are waiting to go into nursing homes.”

 

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Staff recruitment and retainment

Coon said there are major concerns regarding home care worker wages.

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“There’s a crisis right now in finding home care workers because the pay is so miserably low and home care workers have to pay for their own gas going between their clients,” Coon said.  “So we’ve got to overhaul that system in a way that pays people a decent wage so that home care workers can be attracted to that profession.”

Harris said the province wants to make sure nursing homes, special care homes and any seniors care sector has the correct number of employees.

 

“I would encourage people to go in and visit nursing homes, go in and see what it’s like in there because sometimes if you don’t know what it’s like it may not be something that you think about, but a career working with seniors is very fulfilling and it’s really a great career path to take and there’s opportunity for advancement and we certainly know there’s lots of jobs available in the seniors sector,” Harris said.