Health CEO calls out New Brunswick for long waitlists for nursing home beds
The CEO of Vitalité Health Network says New Brunswick isn’t a "Canadian leader" when it comes to senior care.
Gilles Lanteigne made the comment in an interview with CTV Atlantic, when asked about the number of people waiting in hospital for a long-term care bed.
He said on any given day, about 200 people are staying in a Vitalité hospital while they wait.
"It’s having a major impact on the health system," he said. "We have 192 waiting today … and then about 30 to 40 additional people who are waiting to be assessed."
He said those assessments can take anywhere from one to two months.
Lanteigne believes there need to be more alternatives so people do not have to go into long-term care facilities. He’s calling for better home-care options so that families feel more supported, and intensive, short-term rehabilitation so loved ones can return home after a fall, or injury. And he thinks it’s time for an integrated assessment process.
Long-time seniors’ advocate Cecile Cassista agrees with that assessment.
"Our home-care service is lacking. Seniors are languishing in a hospital bed for a longer period of time, basically becoming weaker. Special-care homes are not affordable," she said. "So the question is, where do we go from here?"
Cassista said she’s received numbers from the Department of Social Development that show the waitlist for a long-term care bed is growing. According to her numbers, 817 people were waiting for a bed last month. Of that number, 498 were spending that wait in a hospital.
Those numbers are not a surprise to York Care Centre CEO Tony Weeks.
"We have an aging population and one of the oldest in Canada, actually, at almost 20 per cent of our population," he said. "So of course, it’s not surprising."
York Care has 218 beds, which are always full, according to Weeks. He said if there is a vacancy, it’s filled within 48 hours.
But he believes everyone can play a part in the solution.
"I think it’s incumbent upon all of us, whether it’s on the acute side or in the long-term care side, to drop our drawbridges and work together on some interesting pilots and projects that might help."
A spokesperson for the Department of Social Development said in a statement to CTV Atlantic that the department is aware of the "demographic challenges associated with an aging population," and it’s working on changes.
"[T]here will be an additional 16 beds available in the Miramichi region later this year when a new nursing home opens and two new 60-bed nursing homes are currently under construction in Fredericton and Moncton," said Abigail McCarthy. "The Department of Social Development is actively engaged in a number of projects aimed at assisting seniors live independently, at home, as long as possible. This includes the Home, Safety and Well-Being Review and a number of initiatives under the Healthy Seniors Pilot Program."
Lanteigne expressed concern about vacancies at the Campbellton Nursing Home. McCarthy acknowledged the home has the highest number of vacant beds in the province – at 35 – and said the province has appointed a trustee to help manage the home.
"The trustee will be working to improve recruitment and retention efforts in order to open those beds and move many of the roughly 60 people out of hospital beds in the Restigouche region," she said.