FREDERICTON -- The New Brunswick Nurses Union is calling for a provincial inquiry into what it says are unacceptable conditions in the province's long-term care homes.

Union president Paula Doucet said the sector needs reform to address systemic issues and that care homes in the province are "operating in a fog" because of the government's lack of data on its facilities.

Along with the call for an inquiry, the union released a report Thursday on the province's long-term care sector. It includes two surveys -- one in 2018 in which 134 members participated and another in 2019 in which 58 members participated.

Results indicated more than 70 per cent of respondents working in nursing homes said resident care in their facilities had declined in the last three to five years.

Nearly 90 per cent of respondents said residents are not being regularly provided with exercise, and more than half said residents are not being regularly bathed.

The report also includes 38 recommendations for the provincial and federal governments to address the state of the sector. Recommendations include making behavioural assessments mandatory for residents who may be a harm to themselves or others and increasing permanent full-time staff positions.

Minister of Social Development Bruce Fitch said Thursday the report was done "in isolation" from his department.

"I think had there been more back and forth between the author and some of our department, perhaps some of the recommendations could've been answered," Fitch said in an interview.

The minister said his office needs to analyze the report before the government makes a decision on holding an inquiry. "Right now, at this point in time, to jump to the conclusion that you need a public inquiry, I'd like to see action," Fitch said.

"If there's something that we need to do right today to improve the quality of care for the staff and the residents, let's do it now. Let's not wait for an inquiry. Let's take action."

Liberal Opposition Leader Roger Melanson and seniors critic Guy Arseneault said Thursday they support an inquiry into the province's long-term care sector.

"We have serious staffing shortages in many of our long-term care facilities that are significantly impacting on the quality of care provided to residents," Melanson said in a news release.

Arseneault said the province's nursing staff are overworked and exhausted.

"I have heard from many family members with parents or other relatives in long-term care who are seeing what is happening first-hand and are distressed about the lack of care," Arseneault said.

In a statement released today, Doucet said an inquiry should explore such concerns as declining staff levels and increasing violence in nursing homes.

"I've heard from the representative from the long-term care sector over these years how their staffing numbers were declining, how the acuity of the residents in their care has been increasing over the years" Doucet said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 15, 2020.


The report, titled The Forgotten Generation, includes 38 recommendations for the federal and provincial governments to improve state of New Brunswick’s long-term care sector.