The Nova Scotia government has announced it is adding 500 new long-term care beds in Halifax Regional Municipality.
In a news release, the government said the beds are in addition to projects already in progress at 27 facilities.
In total, the province aims to “create or improve” more than 2,800 beds across Nova Scotia.
When asked how long it would take for the newly-announced beds to be move-in ready, Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Barbara Adams told reporters said it would be a few years.
“The average time from the time you announce the funding for a facility is about three to five years. Some are a little longer, depending on whether they’re part of a hub community. Others are a little shorter, but the average time is three to five years, realistically,” she said.
There are currently 1,936 people on the long-term care waitlist, with 333 waiting in hospital. Adams estimated about half of those on the waitlist are in Central Zone, which includes the Halifax area. She said 25 of the 27 previously-announced projects are in rural areas outside of Halifax and “will likely end up getting built before those in metro.”
As for how many facilities will need to be built to house the 500 beds, Adams said it would depend on the the tender proposals put forth, although typical new builds “go in multiples of 24 beds.”
“So it’ll depend on how many beds each company comes forward and says they’re able to build. If somebody is able to build 48, well, then we’ll need multiples of up to at least 10 or 12. If somebody can build more than that because they have the land and the capacity to do so, it won’t take as many constructions to get to that 500.”
According to the province’s data, more than 7,500 Nova Scotians live in a long-term care facility and 21 per cent of the province’s population is over the age of 65, making it the third-highest percentage in the country.
Nursing students boost frontline support
Meanwhile, the province continues to struggle with a shortage of long-term care workers.
Adams said about 600 LPNs and RNs are needed to get staffing levels in the long-term care sector back to manageable levels following the ongoing impacts of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
On Monday, 133 nursing students began work placements at long-term care facilities to help address the ongoing shortage.
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Adams said while she understands some nursing students may have preferred to have their placements in an acute-care setting, Omicron restricted what the health-care system as a whole was able to offer.
“Acute care placements were cancelled. So, they were in jeopardy of losing the ability to complete the number of required hours that they needed in order to graduate. The one sector that we could have them go into was long-term care,” she said.
The frontlines of long-term care facilities are also hopeful nursing students starting their clinical rotations in the sector will find elements of the field that encourage them to return once they graduate.
“Long-term care is definitely a unique perspective and sometimes the medical focus may take a second priority to quality of life issues but this is all tremendous learning that I think any nurse would benefit from,” said Kim Langdon, a registered nurse who transitioned from acute care into long-term care 30 years ago.
“I think that long-term care has a lot to offer, especially a new nurse, as apart of the training even,” she said.
Langdon said when she graduated with her nursing degree, she had her heart set on a career in acute care but after a few years in the field, she shifted her sights to long-term care after starting her family.
“You really have to learn how to trust your own assessment skills and critically think. You are co-ordinating, and collaborating with a larger team, you’re an intricate part of that. So, the communication skills that you learn are incredible,” she said.
Langdon believes any clinical setting offers its own unique learning opportunities but she’s hopeful some of the nursing students starting their placements connect with the sector enough to explore career options.
“There’s not going to be a lot of the health -are system that’s not dealing with seniors so understanding that perspective is huge. And, I don’t think anyone who came to do an extra stint in long-term care would regret it at the end of their training,” she said.
Langdon said she’s grateful to all of the students who help alleviate frontline pressures during their clinical placements.
“We have many staff that work double shifts on a regular basis and have to stay sometimes to work night shift, when night shift can’t come in, and throw a few storms in there, it’s definitely been hard. And, I think everybody would just be so grateful for any reprieve that came, any support, and help would be wonderful for our residents,” she said.