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Hundreds of seniors remain on New Brunswick nursing home waitlist

Click to play video: 'Hundreds of New Brunswick seniors continue to wait for nursing home beds' Hundreds of New Brunswick seniors continue to wait for nursing home beds
Horizon Health Network says it’s made some progress on moving seniors into nursing homes, but advocates say the measures have made little difference. Nathalie Sturgeon has the story. – Jun 17, 2021

Hundreds of New Brunswick seniors continue to sit on the waitlist for a long-term care bed and despite the slow progress, Horizon Health Network says it has made in the last four years, advocate says more work needs to be done.

Cecile Cassista, executive director with the Coalition for Seniors, released data she’s been tracking since 2017 Thursday.

As of May, she said, 705 people are on the waiting list for a nursing home bed. About 56 per cent of those are living in the hospital, according to Cassista’s records. She said there hasn’t been much change to the list since 2017.

Read more: N.B. Coalition for Seniors rep has ‘mixed feelings’ about new nursing home announcement

“There is a big picture out there that I’m hoping that the Minister of Social Development will take a serious look at,” she said in an interview June 17. “It’s a big department, and I’m not asking for everything overnight, but certainly there are some key components that need to be looked at.”

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In March 2020, the Higgs government started moving alternative level of care beds out of the hospital and into nursing homes due to the pandemic. It was to avoid any further strain on the health-care system if a surge in cases or hospitalizations.

However, the Department of Social Development said it has stopped that process.

Read more: New Brunswick’s auditor general warns of crisis in nursing home sector

“The department did this by stopping admissions to nursing homes from the community and only allowed from the hospital,” said department spokesperson Jeremy Trevors. “These efforts do not work long term as it put pressure on family caregivers in the community.”

Cassista said there was radio silence on what happened and she said she wants the health department to be looking after the nursing home file, not social development.

Trevors said that is not a priority for the government right now.

At-home care should be an option

In addition to reducing the nursing home waiting list and get seniors out of hospitals, Cassista said the government needs to be looking at how to keep seniors safely at home.

She said a hospital is no place for someone to live out their life.

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“People want to live at home,” she said. “Technically, living in institutions lately, we’re hearing all sorts of situations, and it’s very scary.”

Pat Kelly, Routinify CEO, said his company — which uses technology paired with skilled health care workers to provide care to seniors in their own home — has been in discussion with the Department of Social Development and that those meetings have been positive.

Read more: ‘I miss walking in the garden’: Halifax nursing home residents ready for COVID-19 vaccine

“We did speak with the department of (social development) a couple of weeks ago and they did indicate that some type of plan like this would be forthcoming,” he said.

The Department of Social Development said in a statement Thursday it is working with the health department on an aging-in-place strategy, to keep seniors healthy and living at home.

The data shows some decreases within hospitals

Horizon Health Network said the alternative level of care beds — or beds for seniors who require round-the-clock care — do cause congestion or bed shortages within its facilities.

In Moncton, the number of ALC beds has decreased from 21.9 per cent to 18.3 per cent in the last year. Fredericton also decreased from 21.3 per cent to 16.5 per cent.

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However, nearby in Oromocto, the number of ALC beds increased from 48 per cent to 72.6 per cent.

Sussex Health Centre also felt an increase, but only slightly, from 54.7 to 57.3 per cent.

Overall, Horizon Health Network said about an average of 414 patients are waiting for a long-term care bed across its facilities.

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