Houston, PC Plan will invest in Seniors’ beds and staffing; restoring dignity

Nova Scotians need to know that their government will make the right decisions to care for our parents and grandparents as they age. After almost a decade with no investment in long-term care beds, Tim Houston and the PCs will provide solutions and rebuild a sector ignored by the Rankin Liberals.

Three times, Northwood Manor in Halifax asked the governing Liberals to build single rooms in 2017, 2018, and 2019. That request sat on the Minister’s desk without action. During the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic, 53 residents died at Northwood’s Halifax campus.

“The 53 deaths at Northwood exposed a failure of leadership - and the most blatant example of the Liberal government’s indifference to staffing and infrastructure needs of long-term care patients and staff,” says PC Leader Tim Houston. “We are never going to let that happen again, and that’s why we’re putting forward these solutions to support our seniors and the people who care for them.”

Houston’s plan would build 2,500 new, single rooms, and increase the standard level of care to 4.1 hours per resident. The party has committed to hiring 2,000 new staff to support those changes. There are currently 1292 people on the waitlist for a room in long-term care.

“The bill is on the table and has been for years,” says Houston. “It’s been due. We cannot neglect long-term care for almost a decade and expect everything to be okay. As Premier, I will pick up the bill and make the necessary investments to keep people safe.”

Charlene Chiddenton and Darlene Metzler lost their father Gerald Jackson to COVID-19 at Northwood in April of 2020. After being diagnosed with dementia, he moved from Victoria, B.C. to Dartmouth so he could be closer to his daughters. Jackson was housed in a triple room where his roommate caught COVID-19.

“Ensuring that each senior has their own room and bathroom is essential to treating our seniors with dignity in late stages of life,” says Metzler. “Whether it's a flu or a pandemic, there must be the best possible measures for infection control. If we don’t have enough single rooms, that just isn’t possible.”

"We've continued to speak out so hopefully, others don't have to go through what we did," says Chiddenton, who notes that with an ageing population, more beds and rooms will be needed. “There but for the grace of God go I,” says Chiddenton. “We are all ageing, and everyone deserves a safe place to live.”

The Canadian Institute of Health Information estimates that the number of seniors over 75 will double between 2017 and 2037.

“We’ve got to be ready,” says Houston. “Making it someone else’s problem? That’s weak leadership. It’s time to act.”

Across Canada, political pundits and seniors advocates worry that once this pandemic is behind us, governments will go back to ignoring seniors in long-term care and will try to change the channel rather than actually deal with the problems the pandemic exposed. Houston reminded Nova Scotians that the Liberals neglected long-term care during their time in government, cutting funding in their early years and rejecting Northwood for three years in a row.

“As we get through the final stretch of this Pandemic we owe it to these 53 grieving families, and all the overworked and burnt out staff who risked their safety, to take action” says Houston. “We want our long-term care system to be a point of pride for years to come.”