HALIFAX -- Health care remained the most pressing issue on Nova Scotia's campaign trail Thursday, with two of the three major parties highlighting promised improvements for the long-term care sector.

Liberal Leader Iain Rankin visited a long-term care home in Chester, N.S., where he again promised to make the well-being of seniors in care a priority if elected Aug. 17.

The Liberals have previously announced $152.6 million to renovate and replace over 2,000 beds in 24 facilities across the province. In total, the party plans to add 500 additional beds in communities with the greatest demand.

The party is also pledging to reduce to 60 days the average wait times for seniors to get s spot in homes, which is currently around six months.

"For Nova Scotians, who live in long-term care, these are their homes," Rankin said in a statement. "As such, they should be comfortable, efficient, accessible, and modern."

NDP Leader Gary Burrill also discussed long-term care during a stop in Lucasville, just outside Halifax, accusing the Liberals of "eight years of inaction" when it comes to improving the sector.

Burrill said his party would set a minimum standard of 4.1 hours of care a day for each resident, including at least 1.3 hours of nursing care, to ensure consistent, timely care for seniors.

"It's time to pay long-term care workers what they are worth and to create a work environment that allows them to provide the care and support to our seniors," he said in a news release.

During the first televised debate of the campaign on Wednesday, Rankin was forced to defend his party's record on health care. Both Burrill and Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston went after the Liberal leader for failing to deal with a chronic physician shortage in the province.

Houston continued to keep his focus on his party's previously released health plan on Thursday, saying the Tories would open operating rooms on weekends in order to help bring down wait times for procedures such as hip and knee surgeries.

Noting that the Canadian Institute for Health Information benchmark standard for hip and knee surgeries is 182 days, he gave the example of people in Kentville, N.S., needing knee surgeries who have to wait more than 1,000 days.

"We need to do more than just shorten the wait list," Houston said in a news release. "Our goal will be to meet the benchmark standards for wait times, within 18 months of being elected."

He said a Tory government will set up a website to track such things as the number and types of surgeries taking place in a day and how each day's numbers affect the wait list.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 29, 2021.