HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia says more than 150 nursing-home residents are suffering from serious bedsores, as a union proposes legislation to improve care following the death of a 40-year-old woman with an infected bedsore.

"It is heart wrenching and, quite frankly, unacceptable," said Janet Hazelton, president of the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union.

The government said Thursday the province's long-term care homes reported 152 "stage three and four (most severe) pressure injuries" after being ordered to compile the data last week.

The Health Department says wound care experts will be identified and sent in to assess the more severe injuries.

A news release says the less serious cases will "also be seen." The department said preliminary reporting identified 227 stage one and 212 stage two bedsores among the 6,847 occupied beds at long-term care facilities.

The nurses' union, meanwhile, released a proposal on Thursday calling for higher standards for the level of licensed staffing in the homes.

The union is calling for "staffing standards that will better guarantee the health and well being of long-term care residents," and penalties for homes that fail to comply with those standards.

Citing a 2001 study by the United States Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the union says that 4.1 hours of daily care, with about one hour and 20 minutes daily of that time provided by a nurse, is needed to prevent deterioration in a resident's condition.

According to current rules in the province, nursing home operators say they are only receiving enough money for an average of three hours and 27 minutes of daily care.

NDP Leader Gary Burrill described bedsores in the province's nursing homes as a "full-blown emergency" in a statement Thursday.

Hazelton said the bedsore issue is a symptom of a deeper problem -- and needs a wider response.

"More must be done to prevent bedsores, violence in the workplace, understaffing and other impossible barriers to quality care," said Hazelton.

The call for more staff comes as Halifax police investigate the death of Chrissy Dunnington for possible criminal negligence after her family raised concerns about her care at the Parkstone Enhanced Care facility in Halifax.

Her family has said she was transported to hospital with an infected bedsore on Jan. 28 and died in hospital about eight weeks later on March 22.

During a news conference on Thursday, Health Minister Randy Delorey was non-commital about whether more staff will be hired at nursing homes, saying he hasn't had an opportunity to review the research being cited by the nurses.

He also said there are currently no firm plans for his government to bring in changes to the standards in the Homes for Special Care Act in the fall legislative session.

Dunnington's sisters say they're looking for a more rapid and thorough response by the province.

"It's not something that can wait. It needs to be done now. We're in a crisis," said Dorothy Dunnington.

She said while more staff would be helpful, the family is also calling for more staff training.

In addition, she said the Health Department needs to ensure private nursing homes move residents with enough frequency to avoid developing bedsores and other illnesses.

They say Dunnington -- who was in a wheelchair due to her spina bifida and hydrocephalus -- stayed still for long periods of time.

Dunnington said her sister only developed a severely infected bedsore during her 15 months at the nursing home, beginning in 2016, and had to be rushed to hospital in January due to the infection.

Shannex Inc., Parkstone's owner, said in a brief statement last week that "We take this matter seriously and will fully co-operate with the Halifax Police."